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Opta Spotlight: Measuring the most impactful goalscorers in MLS history

There is a very little debate about who the most productive goalscorers in MLS history are. That discussion starts and ends with Landon Donovan and Jeff Cunningham's 134 goals apiece in their MLS careers.

What is up for argument, though, is who the most impactful goalscorer in MLS history is.

Using a stat first explained a couple days ago here can help us answer this question. Adjusted goalscoring rate takes a player's production in a given season and divides it by the league average of goals per game per team. This helps us compare Roy Lassiter against Juan Pablo Ángel even though they played in very different eras of MLS.

A small sample size in a particular season could distort the stat positively or negatively so only seasons where a player played at least 10 games were used. Longevity is also important, as a player like Stern John performed at a high level but for only two years in MLS, so only the top 20 goalscorers in MLS history were taken into consideration.

From that pool of forwards, here are the five most impactful goalscorers in MLS history by adjusted goalscoring rate:

Most Impactful Goalscorers in MLS History

With an adjusted goalscoring rate of 0.41, Taylor Twellman is the most impactful goalscorer in MLS history by that measurement. Had his career not been cut short by injury, we might be talking about him as the one Landon Donovan is chasing in the overall goals race.

Chris Wondolowski has been utterly unstoppable the past four seasons, even with a broken toe in 2013, and shows no signs of slowing down. Angel gets major points for being able to score a healthy amount of goals in the lowest goalscoring years in MLS history. Carlos Ruiz is up there after some incredible years in MLS – with 2002 being a highlight – and Raúl Díaz Arce rounds out the top five with an adjusted goalscoring rate of 0.34.

Donovan finished just behind Diaz Arce with an AGR of 0.32, while Cunningham finished a distant 13th.

If you are wondering about some current players who have who have been top performers in MLS the past couple of seasons, a table is included below. Some of these players are very close to breaking into the top 20 goalscores club (Eddie Johnson) while some others may never reach the 71-goal (for now) threshold required to get in (Thierry Henry) and therefore could never be included.

Adjusted Goalscoring Rates of Current Players