Scoring 10 or more goals during Major League Soccer’s 30-game season is along the same lines as a running back rushing for 1,000 yards in the NFL or a shooting guard averaging 20 points a game in the NBA. It’s an exclusive club each year, and a benchmark that’s increasingly more difficult to achieve for the growing amount of internationals who roam the MLS playing fields, since they are forced to miss several games each season to play for their country.
In 2003, 11 players accomplished this feat. Two were rookies: Damani Ralph for Chicago and Pat Noonan for New England. One was a forty-something in Kansas City’s Preki, who led the League in scoring with 12 goals and 17 assists. And each of the eleven predominantly lined up as strikers during the year, except for Colorado’s left-sided midfielder Mark Chung.
The same amount of players scored 10 or more goals in 2002, as well. Yet the only players you can find on both lists are Taylor Twellman, Carlos Ruiz, Ante Razov and Mark Chung.
If you go back only three years to 2001, you’ll find only one name from last year’s double-digit goal-scorers among the eight players who reached that milestone - Colorado’s John Spencer.
So there’s a little bit of history giving us a reason to believe they’ll be a shakeup among the League’s top goal-scorers in 2004. If healthy, Twellman and Ruiz will surely be there. Same goes for Razov and Spencer. They are proven snipers. What is not known is how Noonan and Ralph will fare this season now that they are known entities. They’ll both score goals, but will each second-year pro reach 10?
Instead of looking at the usual suspects, let’s take a look at 10 players who have either never accomplished the feat or haven’t over the past three seasons, but who may be primed to with a little luck and help from the goal-scoring gods over the next seven months.
1. Josh Wolff, Kansas City Wizards - He found the back of the net 10 times in 1999 for Chicago before tearing his left ACL. Of course, that was just the beginning of his injury woes over the next four years, which has limited his play for both club and country. Finally healthy this spring, the U.S. National Team striker is poised to pick up the slack for Preki and to score goals in bunches this season.
2. Jovan Kirovski, Los Angeles Galaxy - The Ruiz-Kirovski combo should cause nightmares for defenders in 2004. Though the former Birmingham City striker will likely total as many assists as he does goals for Sigi Schmid’s side, 10 goals is certainly in his reach now that he’s finally able to be a starting player for a professional club after a long career overseas.
3. Sergio Galvan Rey, MetroStars - This Argentine striker isn’t being paid the MLS maximum salary to be a playmaker. He was brought to the Meadowlands to score, just as he did 160 times over eight seasons with Once Caldas of the Colombian first division.
4. DaMarcus Beasley, Chicago Fire - His biggest challenge might be getting in enough games for Chicago with World Cup qualifying starting in June. The 21-year-old midfielder scored seven goals last year in only 20 starts due to his commitments to both the full U.S. National Team and the U-23s.
5. Bobby Convey, D.C. United - Now that Peter Nowak is giving him the keys to the car with a move to the central midfield, there’s no reason that the 20-year-old National Team regular can’t contribute more as a goal-scorer. We certainly saw him do it for the U-20s and U-23s this past off-season.
6. Brad Davis, Dallas Burn - Started to really come on last year in his second season in the league. His six goals and five assists led the Burn in scoring, and are totals that should rise in 2004.
7. Brian Ching, San Jose Earthquakes - He was well on his way to hitting for double-digits when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in August against New England. His six goals in 15 games was still good enough to rank tied for second on the team with midfielder Brian Mullan. Playing with Donovan helps, as does his ability in the box with his head on crosses and free kicks.
8. Ed Johnson, Dallas Burn - The Golden Boot winner from the World Youth Championships last December turns 20 today on this last day of March, yet he’s entering his fourth campaign as a member of the Burn. A blazing forward who can score goals in bunches, EJ is capable of reaching 10 goals even if he finds himself coming off the bench at times in 2004.
9. Fabian Taylor, MetroStars - Outside of Freddy Adu, there’s more of a “buzz” about this striker than any new player in the League. His teammates on the Jamaican National Team who play in MLS say he’ll tear up the league and score goals the way Damani Ralph did in ’03. Then again, Bob Bradley has plenty of decisions to make up top for his side with Galvan Rey and Cornell Glen also joining the team over the off-season to go along with John Wolyniec and Mike Magee.
10. Freddy Adu, D.C. United - This is a lock … right?
Four quick ones
Questions for MetroStars midfielder Tim Regan
Last great book I read: Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Where were you when you got drafted by the League?: At the Draft in Kansas City. It was a great, once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Where were you when John O’Brien scored against Portugal?: At a former coach’s apartment, yelling at the TV.
Best movie line to quote: “So I got that goin’
for me, which is nice.” – Carl Spackler in Caddyshack.
Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet. Send any questions to Marc at email@example.com.