[BEST OF MLS 2011: Strikers] In this first installment of Soccer America’s Positional Rankings, the top strikers are presented. Alvaro Saborio was a forgotten man for the first two months of the season but once he and his Real Salt Lake teammates got their minds back on MLS, they were tough to stop. In a very close ranking of MLS’s best strikers, the Costa Rican takes the top spot.
SA's Top 10 Strikers
1. Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
2. Danny Koevermans (Toronto FC)
3. Dominic Oduro (Chicago)
4. Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia)
5. Andres Mendoza (Columbus)
6. Charlie Davies (D.C. United)
7. Eric Hassli (Vancouver)
8. Teal Bunbury (Sporting KC)
9. Luke Rodgers (New York)
10. Conor Casey (Colorado)
The designations of front-line players as strikers and forwards is at times arbitrary. In the case of Real Salt Lake, Saborio often plays centrally and partner Fabian Espindola does more roaming, for the purpose of these rankings Saborio is classified as a striker and Espindola as a (second) forward.
Sporting Kansas City’s 4-3-3 formation is atypical; since Teal Bunbury is usually in the middle flanked by two partners, he is dubbed the striker, as are such out-and-out target men as Eric Hassli, Luke Rodgers and Conor Casey. A fast player deployed high up the field to stretch the opposing defense -- Dominic Oduro, Charlie Davies -- is also put in this section.
RSL’s disappointing loss to Monterrey of Mexico in the Concacaf Champions League finals dogged a few players much of the season, and no one struggled more than Saborio. He didn’t score his first goal until June 25, but after that regained his reputation as one of the league’s top goal-getters.
After surviving his barren spell, Saborio scored his 11 goals in 17 matches to edge Espindola (10 goals) for team honors. Other strikers scored more goals, but they don’t pose as consistent a threat as does Saborio.
Danny Koevermans gave the TFC attack a focal point it has often lacked since Danny Dichio retired early in the 2008 season. He netted eight goals in just 10 appearances since arriving in August and gave a few clinics on what finishers are paid to do. Oduro flourished in Chicago after a trade from Houston and scored a career-high 12 goals by playing with consistency as well as speed.
After the departure of Carlos Ruiz, Sebastian Le Toux carried the Union’s scoring burden down the stretch, scoring 10 of his 11 goals in the last 12 games. With nine assists, he was also among a very short list -- three -- of players whose combined goals and assists hit or topped 20. The Columbus Crew's Andres Mendoza scored 13 goals, but in four games he scored twice, meaning in that more than two-thirds of his games (20 of 29) he was blanked.
Davies got off to a fast start but after scoring his eighth goal June 25 netted only a hat trick against Chivas USA the rest of the season to finish with 11. Hassli scored some remarkable goals, including a Goal of the Year finalist on an incredible volley, in his debut season yet also took careless red cards. Bunbury’s second year as a pro produced a very solid nine goals, a number matched by the rugged if limited aggression of Rodgers. Casey was on his way to a very good season (six goals in 14 games) before a torn left Achilles tendon ended his season in early July.
Irish international Robbie Keane, who was so instrumental in the Los Angeles Galaxy's playoff run to the 2011 MLS title, played only four regular-season games after coming over from Tottenham and therefore was not considered for this year's rankings.