As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.
15 – The most assists by any MLS player in 2012
Everybody loves to talk about goals, and rightly so. But let’s spare a few moments’ thought for the architects, the ones who start what those flashy forwards finish. Life in MLS has gotten harder for them than you might think.
Last year Earthquakes hitman Chris Wondolowski matched an all-time MLS record many thought untouchable, “Rocket” Roy Lassiter’s 27 goals in a single season. Meanwhile, Wondo’s counterpart for the league lead in assists was Sporting KC schemer Graham Zusi, who notched 15 helpers – not bad, but hardly at the same stratospheric level. And nowhere near the league record set by Carlos Valderrama, who notched a whopping 26 assists for the Tampa Bay Mutiny (RIP) in 2000.
This is where old-timers pipe up to point out that the league once had some exceedingly generous definitions of “assist,” a claim that is backed up by the observation that “El Pibe” – who famously hovered around the center circle most of the time in his latter years – racked up more than Zusi’s 2012 total in four of his nine MLS campaigns. And Valderrama doesn’t even hold the all-time career assist mark – that belongs to his former teammate Steve Ralston, now an assistant coach with the Dynamo, who dished out 135 over his glittering 14-year run with Tampa Bay and New England.
Will anyone ever climb to those dizzy heights again? Tight defending, team-first ethics and the MLS game’s relentless pace certainly make it a difficult proposition.
In the modern era, Crew legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto contributed 19 assists in Columbus’ 2008 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup championship run. Up in Seattle, his fellow Argentine Mauro Rosales (above) has kept up a blistering per-game pace that has unfortunately been disrupted by injuries. Should he return to the game eventually, Landon Donovan could take aim at the assists record books, having amassed 33 of them over the past three seasons alone. Given the weapons around them, Brad Davis and Dwayne De Rosario should also factor into this discussion.
For now, though, the still-improving Zusi tops the playmaking VIP list. And with Sporting looking as stacked as ever, we’ll be watching to see if he can give El Pibe a run for his money in 2013.