MLS challengers to Kreis's throne

yes, Kreis suffered a knee injury that took away the last half of his season last year, sitting with the record almost in touching distance, but Lassiter also went goalless in his final MLS season (0 goals in 14 appearances for Kansas City and D.C. United in 2002).

Some perspective, too: In the 17-year history of the North American Soccer League, just seven players scored more than 89 goals. The all-time leader was Giorgio Chinaglia, who scored 193 goals in 213 games in eight seasons for the Cosmos. He was then 74 goals ahead of the second-place man on the NASL list (Alan Willey of the Minnesota Kicks, 129 goals in nine seasons).

A view, too, to the present. Heading into Saturday's matches, just nine players active in Major League Soccer had 44 or more career goals -- halfway to Kreis's record. Just 19 players have as many as 25 goals for their career. And just seven times in MLS history has someone hit for 20 or more goals in one season, never achieved more than once by one player, and for that matter, never by Kreis.

Still, the new scoring king says his record will be a distant memory before too long. If that's so, who are we likely to next celebrate as the new King of Goals in MLS?:

Carlos Ruiz, Los Angeles Galaxy (45 career goals, 24 years old): On his current pace, Ruiz should surpass Kreis's total before the end of the 2006 season. The Guatemalan international burst onto the scene by winning the MLS Golden Boot in his first season with 24 goals (2002), then followed that up with a share of the league goa-scoring crown last year with 15. Then this season, before an ankle injury knocked him out of action for more than a month, he was once again atop the goal charts (and is still just a goal off the lead).

Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution (39 career goals, 24 years old): Although he hates the comparison, has there been a more pitched battle over the last two-plus seasons as the one between Ruiz and Twellman? The St. Louis native finished second by just a goal for the Golden Boot in 2002, then the two tied last season. A rare goalscoring slump hit Twellman this season, netting just once before he was hit by a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action for more than a month.

Ante Razov, Chicago Fire (77 career goals, 30 years old): Perhaps the most consistent goalscorer in the league over the past five years, he's just 12 goals behind Kreis's record total going into the weekend. He missed one season while playing in Spain, but since 1999, he's hit for double-digits in goals in four seasons (14 in '99; 18 in 2000; 14 in both '02 and '03). His pace would put him very close to the current Kreis total before the end of this season, but just a year younger than Kreis, they would expect to have the same career longevity.

Jeff Cunningham, Columbus Crew (58 goals, 27 years old): A couple of years ago, Cunningham seemed like an odds-on candidate to approach the all-time goal-scoring record. While his rate dropped a year ago, if he can return to the level he showed at the start of the millennium he could be right back in the mix. In 2001-02, Cunningham scored 26 goals, but then hit for just five last year. After a slow start, he has five already this season. At age 28, he could have a couple more years than those ahead of him on the list -- which could give him an advantage.

Landon Donovan, San Jose Earthquakes (28 goals, 22 years old): Based on his career trajectory, if Vegas oddsmakers could be convinced to give such a thing, Donovan would likely be the odds-on favorite to finish his career as the King of Goals. With his best days as a professional ahead, Donovan showed a glimpse of his potential a season ago when he hit for 12 goals. A bunch more seasons like that as he reaches his prime, and perhaps even those Chinaglia numbers could be in jeopardy.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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