Climbing the Ladder: Playoff heroes through the years

The 16th edition of the MLS Cup playoffs is under way.

FC Dallas are already out. The New York Red Bulls are still alive, thanks to the play of some of their top players, who rose to the occasion.

Total Points

    Points
1 Kevin Hartman 85
2 Cobi Jones 83
3 Jeff Agoos 82
4 Mauricio Cienfuegos 63
5 Jaime Moreno 62
6 Ezra Hendrickson 61
7 Chris Armas 59
7 Brian Mullan 59
7 Ante Razov 59
10 Diego Gutiérrez 58

Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards are just the latest in a long line of clutch players to make a mark in the postseason. There’s also Jeff Agoos and Brian Mullan with their five championship rings each, plus Jaime Moreno and Dwayne De Rosario with four, and Landon Donovan with three, among others.

But aside from just simply looking at titles, which players have been a part of the most playoff success? That is, whose teams have the compiled the best winning record in the postseason when looking at their entire career?

1. Playoff records: Total points & PPG per player

Note: Games that ended in a shootout from 1996-99 are counted as draws for comparison purposes. All records include all games the player took part, whether as a starter or a substitute.

The easiest way to judge is to look at total points, where Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman leads the way. Although he didn’t pick up any more points on Wednesday night, he took over the top spot during FCD’s run to the final in 2010.

The only other active member in the top 10 is Brian Mullan of Colorado, who has a chance to jump up a few spots as the Rapids start their journey against the Columbus Crew (10 pm ET, live stream on MLSsoccer.com).

Points per Game per Player

    GP W L D Pts PPG
1 Mario Gori 10 8 0 2 26 2.60
2 Troy Dayak 10 8 2 0 24 2.40
3 Ronnie Ekelund 11 8 3 0 24 2.18
4 Raúl Díaz Arce 12 8 2 2 26 2.17
5 Jeff Agoos 39 26 9 4 82 2.10
6 Tony Sanneh 20 13 4 3 42 2.10
7 Richie Williams 26 16 4 6 54 2.08
8 John Maessner 19 12 4 3 39 2.05
9 Zak Ibsen 21 13 4 4 43 2.05
10 Landon Donovan 25 16 6 3 51 2.04

Hartman’s career haul is impressive. However, he’s also played the most playoff games all time (48), followed by Cobi Jones (45) and Diego Gutiérrez (40). How about a ranking based on points per game, for players with at least 10 games in the postseason?

Topping the list is Mario Gori, the Argentine left back who was a part of D.C. United’s great teams in the first three seasons of MLS, though only as a full-time starter for 1996. The unbeaten record includes two shootouts, one that ended as a victory and the other as a loss. Gori would move on to play for three other MLS teams, but never again took part in the playoffs.

He’s followed closely by Troy Dayak, the former San Jose center back who started during of their championship runs in 2001 and 2003, yet missed out on their 2002 disappointment with injury.

Donovan is the only active player in the top 10, and already holds the record for most playoff goals with 17. The only other active player in the Top 25 and still alive in this year’s playoffs is Colorado's Wells Thompson, who’s already played in two MLS Cups in four seasons as a professional.

The bottom 10 on a per-game basis is mostly made of up former Dallas Burn players, as they had only won two playoff series in their history until last season.

But surprisingly, the legendary Carlos Valderrama is also right near the bottom. He won two playoff games in his first season with Tampa Bay, then no more until his final year with in 2002 with Colorado.

Jason Kreis (0.91) and Ricardo Clark (0.93) are notable names who also check in at under a point per game. Clark of course missed out on both finals with Houston through suspension.

At least these players have plenty of playoff experience, which isn’t the case for everyone.

Regular season games played without a playoff appearance

    Games
1 Nick LaBrocca 123
2 Stefani Miglioranzi 106
3 Jordan Harvey 105
4 Cory Gibbs 101
5 Shea Salinas 89
6 Jim Brennan 84
7 Julius James 83
8 Danleigh Borman 81
9 Stefan Frei 81
10 Nelson Akwari 78

2. Most regular season games without a playoff appearance

Nick LaBrocca will be sitting at home with Chivas USA, but Stefani Miglioranzi is set to end his long drought. Despite playing for two teams which made an MLS Cup (2008 Columbus, 2009 LA), he’s still waiting for his first taste of playoff action. James, however, should see action on Thursday night, and make a swift exit from this list.