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Climbing the Ladder: The least and most fouled in MLS history

New England’s Chris Tierney is best known for serving in accurate crosses from the left flank. While he may be skilled at striking the ball, opponents haven’t been quite as successful at making contact with him. In 2011, he’s been literally untouchable. Check the stats: Tierney has played 749 minutes this season and has yet to be fouled.

How long can he go? MLS history suggests that he doesn’t have much of a chance to last the entire season, as nobody’s finished with more than 540 minutes played and zero fouls suffered. Tierney’s already a couple hundred minutes above that.

Most minutes played with zero fouls suffered, full season

Player Year Team Min

Wade Webber

1999

MIA

540

Pablo Escobar

2010

KC

529

Carlos Borja

2010

CHV

456

O'Brian White

2009

TOR

440

The most impressive season for not being fouled would have to be Shavar Thomas’s 2009 campaign. The Jamaican center back then played for Chivas USA, and he was fouled only once in 1,495 minutes. That’s the fewest fouls suffered per 90 minutes ever, and he followed that up by placing third all time last year.

Fewest fouls suffered per 90 minutes (minimum 1,000 minutes played)

Player Team Year Min. FS Per 90
1. Shavar Thomas CHV 2009 1459 1 0.062
2. Sam Cronin TOR 2009 2363 2 0.076
3. Shavar Thomas PHI/KC 2010 1432 2 0.126
4. Kris Kelderman MIA 1998 1187 2 0.152
5. Zak Ibsen SJ 2002 1077 2 0.167
6. Chris Tierney NE 2009 1044 2 0.172
7. Bobby Boswell DC 2007 1963 4 0.183
8. Bobby Boswell HOU 2010 2277 5 0.198
9. Tim Ream NY 2010 2700 6 0.200
10. Carlos Mendes NY 2010 1785 4 0.202

Tierney’s no stranger to this category, but his chances of returning may be low if he continues to lineup in the midfield rather than on the backline.

If it isn’t obvious from the makeup of this top ten, there have been fewer fouls called in MLS over the last few years. There was a big decline starting in 2008, when the USSF issued a clear directive to increase the flow of the game with less interruption from minor infractions. The total number of fouls went from 28 per game in 2007 to less than 25 in every year since.

2. Gaven most fouled in 2011

Columbus’ Eddie Gaven is the league’s most fouled player so far in 2011 with 39 fouls suffered (2.83 per 90). However, among those who’ve been getting regular playing time, several players have been fouled at a higher rate, including New England’s Benny Feilhaber (3.67), Seattle’s Mauro Rosales (3.55), and former teammate Steven Lenhart (3.23) of San Jose. But all three have a long way to go to rank among the highest of all time:

Most fouls suffered per 90 minutes

Player Team Year Min. FS Per 90
1. Onandi Lowe KC 2001 1034 60 5.222
2. Jose Cancela NE 2003 1142 64 5.044
3.Cuauhtémoc Blanco CHI 2007 1233 61 4.453
4. DaMarcus Beasley CHI 2003 1969 96 4.388
5. Jose Cancela NE 2006 1387 67 4.348
6. DaMarcus Beasley CHI 2002 1719 83 4.346
7. Andy Williams NE/NY 2002 1814 86 4.267
8. Alejandro Moreno SJ 2005 2167 102 4.236
9. Jaime Moreno DC 2001 1888 87 4.147
10. Guiseppe Galderisi NE/TB 1996 1961 89 4.085

Another category, and another Jamaican in first. Lowe was signed in mid-2001, was a bright spot for a struggling Wizards team, and then was sold in the offseason. Moreno and Williams are the only players listed who are currently still in MLS, and they’ve been among the league leaders nearly every season of their careers.

So we’ve seen who’s been fouled the least and most of all time, how about those doing the fouling?

3. The fewest fouls committed

Which players have committed the fewest fouls so far? The Crew’s Jeff Cunningham has yet to score or foul in his 361 minutes, while Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers has fouled twice in ten games (0.20 per 90).

Fewest fouls committed per 90 minutes (minimum 1,000 minutes played)

Player Team Year Min. FC Per 90
1. Terry Cooke COL 2006 1997 3 0.135
2. Jason Herndandez SJ 2010 2412 5 0.187
3. Michael Parkhurst NE 2005 2880 6 0.188
4. Terry Cooke COL 2007 2288 5 0.197
5. Michael Parkhurst NE 2007 2197 5 0.205
6. Clyde Simms DC 2005 1263 3 0.214
7. Steve Ralston NE 2009 1543 4 0.233
8. Jacob Peterson COL 2009 1131 3 0.239
9. Gerell Elliott DAL 1998 1100 3 0.245
10. Terry Cooke COL 2008 1698 5 0.265

Three fouls in nearly 2,000 minutes for the Englishman Cooke in 2006. To put that in perspective, 13 players equaled that over the weekend. Last year’s leader, Hernandez, meanwhile, has more than doubled his previous total from 2010 with 11 already this season.

The 2010 Fair Play award winner, Sebastien Le Toux, was sixth last season. Over the last five years, the award winner has finished in the top ten each time, though before that it only happened twice. Steve Ralston managed to win it in 2000 despite only ranking 28th, the lowest of any to receive the honor.

4. The most fouls committed

Among those who’ve played 500-plus minutes so far, Dejan Rusmir and Eric Hassli lead the league (3.24 per 90 each). The Rapids’ Brian Mullan was among the leaders before his suspension, though that hasn’t usually been the case for him throughout his career. Jonathan Leathers and Marcos Mondaini - both of whom were also involved in season-ending injuries for other players - aren’t anywhere near the top.

Most fouls committed per 90 minutes (minimum 1,000 minutes played)

Player Team Year Min. FC Per 90
1. Marcelo Saragosa LA/DAL 2006 1113 48 3.881
2. Atiba Harris RSL 2006 1146 47 3.691
3. Danny Dichio TOR 2007 1175 46 3.523
4. Matt Okoh COL 2000 1039 40 3.442
5. Bakary Soumare CHI 2007 1072 41 3.442
6. Diego Serna MIA 2005 2236 83 3.341
7. Roberto Mina DAL 2005 1270 47 3.331
8. Deigo Serna MIA 2001 1978 73 3.322
9. Esteban Arias CHV 2005 1141 42 3.313
10. Atiba Harris CHV 2008 2014 73 3.262

A defensive midfielder is first all-time, but it’s interesting to see so many attacking players comprising this list. Harris has been a warrior, routinely involved in plenty of whistles both for and against. Another man who doesn’t show up here, yet continually is near the top of the yearly rankings is Toronto’s Alan Gordon. The physical forward isn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up, as evidenced by his four top-five finishes since 2006.