By Ridge Mahoney
Our arbitrary classification of players by position presents the strikers, who specialize in finishing chances though they may be adept at creating them as well.
The striker who spearheads the front line is relatively easy to identify: Marco Di Vaio, Alvaro Saborio, Blas Perez, Conor Casey, Ryan Johnson, et al, are obviously the targets of attacking moves. These players draw defenders and open up space for teammates, yet they are also expected to deal with balls in congested areas and put shots on frame or set up chances for others as well.
Best of MLS 2013:
Right Backs: Sheanon Williams
Right Centerbacks:Jamison Olave
Left Centerbacks:Jose Goncalves
Left Backs:Seth Sinovic
Right Midfielders:Sebastien Le Toux
Holding Midfielders:Kyle Beckerman
Central Midfielders: Will Johnson
Left Midfielders:Diego Fagundez
Attacking Midfielders: Javier Morales
Forwards: Mike Magee
Speedy players such as Dominic Oduro and Giles Barnes can stretch defenses by pushing higher up the field and create openings for partners who operate in their wake. (Those players, classified as forwards, are included in a separate ranking.)Thierry Henrycan play either role and is more mobile than most out-and-out strikers, but he comes into this category because he is just as dangerous leading the line as playing off a frontline partner.
The rankings are based on performances for league and playoff matches, if any, this past season.
SA's Top 10 MLS Strikers (2013)
1. (NR) Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
2. (NR) Dominic Oduro (Columbus Crew)
3. (3) Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
4. (3*) Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
5. (9) Blas Perez (FC Dallas)
6. (NR) Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
7. (-) Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids)
8. (NR) Ryan Johnson (Portland Timbers)
9. (NR) Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo)
10. (-) Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)
Note: In parentheses 2012 ranking of all strikers.
NR=not ranked in 2012; -=not in MLS in 2012. *ranked as forward in 2012.
Di Vaio’s 20-goal season erased any doubts that may have arisen in 2012, when he arrived in midseason and scored five goals in 16 appearances. He’s adept at first-time finishing with either foot and good in the air, but perhaps his greatest attribute is a knack for cleanly controlling a pass on the first touch and drilling a shot on frame with the second. It’s rare to see a defender take the ball off his feet within shooting range; he’s strong enough to fend off challenges and quick enough to keep possession.
Oduro set hit a career-high 13 goals and started all 34 matches for the first time in his eight-year MLS career though he spent a lot of time running at opponents from the right side of midfield. Saborio played just 16 regular-season games yet netted 12 goals, including four penalty kicks. Henry wobbled a bit at times during the season yet his mixture of shooting and passing (10 goals, nine assists) propelled New York to its first Supporters’ Shield. Perez’s size, strength and combustible temper earned him 11 goals in his second MLS season.
Casey took up much of the scoring load while Jack McInerneystruggled and finished second on the team with 10 goals while also dishing out five assists. Deshorn Brown’s remarkable rookie season earned him 10 goals and a lot of Rookie of the Year votes (he finished second to teammate Dillon Powers.) Johnson doesn’t win any style points but his rugged, robust play and nose for goal (he scored nine) gave Portland’s fluid play an imposing target. Barnes led the Dynamo with nine goals and brought a lot of pace and guile to its frontline play. Injuries limitedObafemi Martinsto 20 games and eight goals during the regular season yet his powerful presence added another dimension to Seattle’s attack.
SA's Best Strikers (1996-2013)
2012 Robbie Keane
2011 Alvaro Saborio
2010 Edson Buddle
2009 Jeff Cunningham
2008 Juan Pablo Angel
2007 Luciano Emilio
2006 Jeff Cunningham
2005 Taylor Twellman
2004 Brian Ching
2003 Carlos Ruiz
2002 Carlos Ruiz
2001 Diego Serna
2000 Mamadou Diallo
1999 Stern John
1998 Stern John
1997 Raul Diaz Arce
1996 Eduardo Hurtado