Climbing the Ladder: Another feat for Ángel

Juan Pablo Ángel threw a temporary life raft to Chivas USA this past Sunday, with his 90th-minute equalizer earning a point for the red and white against the Philadelphia Union. After being cast off by the LA Galaxy, he’s turned his season around by scoring seven times in as many games.

Though the Goats are no longer in playoff contention after New York's win over LA on Tuesday night, Ángel’s equalizer was an individual milestone. It meant that he kept extended his streak of reaching double digits goals in every year he’s played in MLS.

Most Goals, Five Consecutive Seasons
Rank Player Goals Seasons
1 Roy Lassiter 81 1996-2000
2 Raúl Díaz Arce 78 1996-2000
3 Taylor Twellman 75 2002-2006
4 Carlos Ruiz 74 2002-2006
T-5 Taylor Twellman 68 2003-2007
T-5 Juan Pablo Ángel 68 2007-2011
7 Landon Donovan 64 2005-2009
8 Jaime Moreno 63 1997-2001
9 Ante Razov 62 1999-2003
T-10 Roy Lassiter 61 1997-2001
T-10 Taylor Twellman 61 2004-2008

The only other player in league history to have five consecutive years with 10 or more goals is Carlos Ruiz, also in his first five seasons in the league from 2002-06. Four more players have done it four straight years; they are Raúl Díaz Arce, Roy Lassiter, Jaime Moreno and Diego Serna.

Ángel’s total of 68 goals since his arrival easily leads the league since 2007, which is the period coinciding with the introduction of the Designated Player rule. Landon Donovan (59) and Dwayne De Rosario (53) are next, with Conor Casey and Jeff Cunningham rounding out the top five.

Historically, only four others have surpassed the total of 68 in five years. The list (at right) is led by Roy Lassiter, who set the single-season record of 27 back in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Mutiny.

2. Corner scoring on the rise

If anyone needed reminding, Tuesday night showed that one corner kick can change a game. Luke Rodgers pounced a loose ball set up by a New York Red Bulls corner kick, and the rest is history.

And that was in addition to a weekend where well executed corner kicks were in abundance. Five players scored off one: Colin Clark, Fabián Espíndola, Diego Fagundez, Thierry Henry and Drew Moor.

This wasn’t something out of the ordinary for the 2011 season; in fact, the corner scoring rate is dramatically higher than usual. Normally, the scoring rate has been right about two percent. This year, 2.93 percent of corners have been converted through Sunday’s games, for an increase of 47 percent. In fact, this year's scoring rate is at its highest since a 2.30 percent rate of conversion in 2007.

Furthermore, the number of corner goals as a percentage of all goals scored is 10.43 percent. Previously, it’s only been in the six to eight percent range.

Most Successful Teams on Corner Kicks
Rank Year Team Goals Corners PCT
1 2011 Real Salt Lake 9 161 5.59%
2 2010 San Jose 7 126 5.56%
3 2006 Kansas City 9 168 5.36%
4 2006 Houston 8 154 5.19%
5 2007 Houston 7 139 5.04%
6 2011 Houston 9 182 4.95%
7 2011 Seattle 7 150 4.67%
8 2010 Real Salt Lake 6 133 4.51%
9 2009 Seattle 7 167 4.19%
T-10 2009 Columbus 6 144 4.17%
T-10 2009 Houston 6 144 4.17%

For comparison purposes, the web site for the British newspaper The Guardian reported in June that 2.95 percent of corners were converted into goals over the past five years' worth of data in the English Premier League.

When Real Salt Lake took the lead against LA in the 45th minute on Saturday, it was their ninth successful corner of the season. That matches Houston, who had one earlier in the day against Chicago, and also the 2006 Kansas City Wizards for the most goals off a corner kick in one season.

All three teams have scored nine times from corners, the most since MLS has made the data readily available in 2003. However, it’s this year’s RSL team that has the highest percentage of corner conversions, at 5.59 percent.

The breakdown of goals scored and against in different categories for every team can be found in the game guide PDFs here on MLSsoccer.com. Simply go the preview on the preview page for any game, where they’re found. Full of interesting information and statistics, they’re an invaluable resource for getting to know the league better.

3. Momentum not the most important factor come playoff time

With three teams already qualified for the playoffs and more soon on the way, momentum is sure to be a topic of discussion as the postseason nears.

However, there’s nothing to suggest that momentum is a factor in who wins those two-legged, conference semifinal series. Since the switch to the home-and-home format in 2003, teams who have done better in the regular season’s final five games have fared only slightly better in theseries (19 of 32) as those who were higher seeded.

The best factor to consider? That might be goal differential, which has predicted 21 of 32 series winners.

These are small sample sizes (both the number of series and the fact that they’re only two games each), but it’s a no brainer that teams with a good goal differential should have a good record as well. If they don’t, then they may be better than they appear. The last two MLS Cup winners fit this bill, as both 2010 Colorado and 2009 Real Salt Lake had the fourth best GD in the league despite their seventh- and eighth-place finishes in the overall table.