Three for Thursday: Goal-scoring heroes in CONCACAF
Dwayne De Rosario has spent years carving his name in the annals of Major League Soccer, and on Friday he has the chance to reach one of the highest points for the Canadian national team.
De Rosario and head coach Stephen Hart’s team take on hosts St. Lucia in a World Cup qualifying match on Friday (6 pm ET), and the D.C. United playmaker can move into a tie with Dale Mitchell as the top goal scorers in Canucks history. De Rosario is perched at 18 goals, one off the pace of Mitchell, who suited up for the team from 1980 to 1993.
In honor of De Rosario’s potential date with destiny, this week’s Three For Thursday looks at three other CONCACAF players who have MLS ties and are currently the leading scorers in their respective nation's history. Of course, this list could include LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan, but we’re going to try and dig at least a little bit deeper. Take a look.
Raúl Díaz Arce, El Salvador
Few players were as dynamic in the early days of Major League Soccer as Díaz Arce, who was taken 10th overall in the inaugural draft in 1996. He was an absolute terror during the heyday of D.C. United, lighting up wide-eyed defenses for 23 goals in the league’s first year and another 15 in 1997. Do the math: 38 goals in 50 games, and two MLS Cups in the nation’s capital.
Reports of bad blood with fellow D.C. star Marco Etcheverry eventually led to Díaz Arce’s trade in 1998 to New England, where he scored another 18 goals in 1998. He never quite reached those numbers again in MLS, but he went about his business all the while with the Salvadoran national team, scoring a record 39 goals in just 68 appearances during the 1990s. He was a veteran of the Gold Cup, but like so many tremendous Central American players who faced tough odds getting out of the CONCACAF qualification round, he never appeared in a World Cup.
Stern John, Trinidad and Tobago
The former Columbus Crew striker is in rare company both in MLS and the international level. His chops during the league’s early years are well known – a combined 44 goals in 55 games in 1998 and 1999 before he tried his hand in Europe. He scored 26 goals in his first year in the league, good enough to win the Golden Boot and earn him a Best XI selection.
But even after he left MLS he kept on scoring for his native T&T. In fact, his 70 goals in 111 career games is good enough for fifth on the list among the top scorers for all FIFA nations, a list that includes greats like Pelé, Ali Daei, Gabriel Batistuta and Thierry Henry. He was also a chief reason the Soca Warriors reached the World Cup in 2006, although he never found the magic touch in Germany. In fact, T&T were shut out in all three matches in the group stage before they headed home.
Carlos Ruiz, Guatemala
Few lists involving either MLS greats or legends of Central American soccer are complete without El Pescadito. He’s here because he’s simply both – one of the best pure goal scorers the league has seen and certainly the best at getting it done for his native Guatemala. Look no further than this summer, when he was pulling double duty for the Philadelphia Union (six goals in 14 games before he surprisingly jumped ship for a return to a career in Mexico) and Los Chapines in the Gold Cup. Yes, he has his detractors, but his 88 career MLS goals and his 44 goals in 91 games for Guatemala are tough to ignore.
At 32 years old, he’s still kicking, and will likely play a large part in Guatemala’s qualification process for the 2014 World Cup. Whether he has another return to MLS in the tank, only El Pescadito knows for sure.