Consistent production can be fleeting for goalscorers, who must withstand physical abuse, emotional stress and the whims of fortune as they play their trade. With Colorado's Edson Buddle having recently joined the elite club of MLS players to score 100 goals, we take a look at which players have excelled over a period of time.
Like most people who commentate and pontificate about sports on television, former New England and USA international Taylor Twellman triggers a wide and virulent range of assessments.
Unlike that of many of his TV counterparts, Twellman's national team career was sporadic and rather brief, and he never made a World Cup roster, so even those who know he played up front for New England and knocked in a few goals might still say, “Okay, what did he ever do?”
Well, by one important metric -- goals per game -- he’s the most prolific player in league history among those who have hit three figures. Buddle's 100th goal earlier this month against the Galaxy brought membership in the Century Club to eight.
Here’s list of those players ranked not by total goals, but the scoring rate of goals per game:
The MLS Century Club (Goals Per Game):
PLAYER (YEARS) G/GP/GPG Average
1. Taylor Twellman (2002-2010) 101/174/0.58
2. Ante Razov (1996-2009) 114/262/0.44
3. Landon Donovan (2001-current) 141/325/0.43
4. Jaime Moreno (1996-2010) 133/340/0.39
5. Jeff Cunningham (1998-2011) 134/365/0.37
6. Jason Kreis (1996-2007) 108/305/0.354
7. Edson Buddle (2001-current) 100/289/0.346
8. Dwayne DeRosario (2001-current) 103/334/0.31
(MLS keeps records of goals scored per 90 minutes but these stats are based on appearances, not minutes played).
Starting with his first MLS season in 2002 -- after two years stuck in the reserves at 1860 Munich --Twellman hit the century mark in goals faster than any other MLS player. Not Buddle nor Landon Donovan nor Jeff Cunningham nor Jaime Moreno nor anybody else in that elite eight can match his per-game production.
Though after his first MLS season Twellman didn’t come close to matching the 23 goals he scored in 2002, he hit double-digits in four of the next five seasons. But a serious neck injury and multiple concussions forced him to retire in 2010 at age 30. He formed an organization, ThinkTaylor, that raises awareness and lobbies for stringent protocols to be applied in the diagnosis and treatment of head injuries.
One reason his per-game average is so high is he didn’t struggle as do many players as age catches up to them. However, many of his Century Club counterparts had some of their best seasons after the age of 30. De Rosario won the MVP at age 33 by scoring 16 goals in 2011, and Cunningham was the same age when he notched 17 in 2009. And even in an injury-curtailed 2008, Twellman scored eight goals in 16 games.
A 34-year-old, Robbie Keane, is leading the Galaxy with 13 goals after netting 16 in each of the past two MLS seasons. An average of 16 goals per season would top Twellman’s 95 goals in his first six seasons.
Here’s another chart, comparing some top scorers with their best production in six consecutive seasons in MLS -- again ranked on goals-per game -- which jibes with Twellman’s remarkable prowess from 2002 to 2007.
'Consecutive’ MLS Seasons (Goals Per Game):
PLAYER (YEARS) GP/G/GPG Average
1. Taylor Twellman (2002-2007) 158/95/0.60
2. Carlos Ruiz (2002-2007) 140/81/0.58
3. Chris Wondolowski (2009-current) 157/87/0.554
4. Raul Diaz Arce (1996-2001) 150/82/0.546
5. Roy Lassiter (1996-2001) 165/88/0.53
6. Ante Razov (1998-2003) 142/72/0.51
7. Landon Donovan (2006-2011) 146/71/0.48
8. Juan Pablo Angel (2007-2012) 152/72/0.473
9 .Jamie Moreno (1997-2002) 141/66/0.468
10. Diego Serna (1998-2003) 123/57/0.463
11. Brian Ching (2004-2009) 126/58/0.460
12. Jeff Cunningham (2001-2006) 157/68/0.433
13. Conor Casey (2008-2013) 135/58/0.4296
14. Kenny Cooper (2006-2010, 2012) 157/66/0.420
15. Ronald Cerritos (1997-2002) 141/59/0.418
16. Eddie Johnson (2004-2007, 2012-2013) 133/55/0.41
17. Jason Kreis (1998-2003) 159/65/0.40
18. Edson Buddle (2005-2010) 147/57/0.39
19. Dwayne De Rosario (2005-2010) 161/59/0.37
20. Eric Wynalda (1996-2001) 98/34/0.35
(If a player left MLS and returned, as in the cases of Cooper and Johnson, his numbers are included based on six league seasons as if they were consecutive. If he played any portion of a season in MLS, that season is counted in the calculation. Several players, such as Cunningham and Razov, had more than one six-season stretch that would rate in the top 20, but the list is restricted to each player’s best such performance.)
GOLDEN AGE OF GOALS. The chart confirms that those seasons when Twellman and Carlos Ruiz were banging them in game after game, month after month, year after year, were indeed special. Yet even at the height of their powers, none of them -- nor anyone else – was able to hit double-digits in six consecutive seasons. Kreis, Lassiter, Razov, Preki and Moreno consistently ranked among the top scorers year after year but couldn’t string together a half-dozen campaigns in double digits.
Starting in 1998, Razov hit 10, 14, and 18 in consecutive seasons, but a stint in Spain limited him to seven games and two goals in 2001, after which he struck for 14 again in back-to-back seasons. (He also averaged 0.38 goals per game from 2002 to 2007).
How consistently good was Cunningham? Good enough that he rates highly in two separate six-season sequences, in which his 2005 season (12 goals) and 2006 season (16) are used in both.
A good bet to go double-digits in six consecutive seasons is Wondolowski, who has already netted 10 this season after reeling off campaigns of 18 (2010), 16 (2011), 27 (2012) and 11 last year. Wondo also has a decent shot to surpass the 95 goals Twellman notched in his six most prolific campaigns. Wondo and Angel are the only players to hit double-digits five seasons in a row.
If in 2015 Wondolowski surpasses his mediocre 2009 campaign of five goals in 21 games for the Quakes and Houston, the ’09 season will no longer count and his six best seasons will be the period from 2010 to 2015. Within that parameter, starting in 2010, he’s scored 82 goals in 136 games for a per-game average of 0.603. (Twellman’s average carried out to thousandths is 0.601.)
Another candidate for a double-digit sixer is Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio, who has logged seasons of 12,11, 17 and 12 since joining the league in 2010. He scored six goals in 10 games prior to suffering a broken foot in late May and if he returns to full health next month, as expected, he can keep his run going by netting four goals. (His sixth season would be 2015.)
Since joining the Galaxy in 2011, Keane has been remarkably consistent. His per-game production is 0.61 (47 goals in 77 games). If he keeps scoring at that rate through 2017, when he turns 37, he could set the double-digit mark. (The count would start in 2012, since he scored two goals in four games in 2011.)
The per-game production record for a player with more than one season is former Crew striker Stern John, whose incredible tally of 44 goals in 55 games (0.80 goals per game) during the 1998 and 1999 seasons prompted a move to English soccer. Periodic rumors that he would return to MLS never materialized and he moved back to his homeland, Trinidad & Tobago, two years ago.
Getting back to Twellman, his prolific MLS scoring never translated to similar success with the national team. And he failed to hit double-digits in six consecutive seasons by the narrowest of margins: a single goal. He scored nine in 2004. But for the time being, rated on consistency and production over a designated period, he’s on top.