CARSON, Calif. – Jeff Cunningham amassed a goal total second to none during 14 years spent in MLS, but now he’s off to his next challenge.
The former Columbus Crew great scored a stoppage-time goal in his debut for Guatemalan powerhouse Comunicaciones on Wednesday and was back at again on Saturday night, looking sharp in his first start in a 2-0 exhibition defeat to Municipal at the Home Depot Center.
"I've always scored goals, and for me it is part of who I am, and not doing that or not having a chance to score goals, part of me is missing,” Cunningham told reporters on Saturday evening. “I know love and family and sex and all of that is important, but to not get the chance to score goals, you don't feel quite like yourself. Some people like surfing, some like reading books. I like scoring goals. Not getting a chance to do that, I feel a lack in my life.
Cunningham amassed 135 goals in MLS, taking sole possession the MLS all-time leading goal scoring mark last season while with the Columbus Crew. But he wasn’t welcomed back to Columbus for 2012, leaving him to find work elsewhere, and to take an interesting new path to stay on the field in professional soccer.
Cunningham’s quest for goals comes at significant cost to his family life, however, as his wife Jocelyn and three-year-old daughter Mikayla have yet to make the move to Guatemala City. Cunningham was able to steal a few quiet moments with them on Saturday following the match against Municipal.
While watching his young daughter – clad in an oversized Comunicaciones uniform – running around the Home Depot Center tunnel, Cunningham couldn’t escape the nomadic reality that has come to define his career.
“It’s still in transition, but as a footballer you learn to adapt quite quickly and focus on what you can control, which is performing when you get the chance,” he said while stealing glances at his daughter. “The family and all the other stuff will fall in place. I’m trying to squeeze as much time with [his family] as possible.
“It’s tough, especially with my daughter,” he added. “I’m not sure if she quite realizes what is really going on.”
While his family situation remains unresolved, Cunningham believes that with Comunicaciones he has found the right environment to do what he does best: put the ball in the back of the net.
“Everyone has been very friendly,” Cunningham said. “They all helping me with my Spanish and they’re doing their best to help me get settled. I’m in debt to this organization and I hope I’m able to score some goals and win a cup for them.”
Adam Serrano writes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.