Climbing the Ladder: Eric Avila has gone from a regular sub to a starter for FC Dallas.
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Climbing the Ladder: A substitute's role

Chicago’s Orr Barouch and Portland’s Sal Zizzo have something in common this season. Both have made six regular-season appearances without ever starting a game. They subbed on each time.

They’re not alone. Columbus’s Tommy Heinemann has made five similar appearances, and LA’s Bryan Jordan and Jovan Kirovski, and Chivas USA's Mariano Trujillo each have four.

Most Substitute Appearances without Starting

SJ 2003 Jamil Walker 19
DAL 2009 Eric Avila 18
TB 1999 Pete Marino 15
CLB 1996 Mac Cozier 13
SJ 1998 Brian Sebapole 12
NY 2007 Sinisa Ubiparipovic 12
COL 2007 Omar Cummings 11
NE 2000 Paul Keegan 11
KC 2009 Michael Kraus 11
COL 2010 Claudio Lopez 11
CHV 2007 Matt Taylor 11

Lowest Percentage of Games Started

(minimum 50 games)

    Start Sub PCT
1 Eric Avila 7 49 12.5%
2 Jamil Walker 11 59 15.7%
3 Calen Carr 19 63 23.2%
4 Guillermo Jara 16 48 25.0%
5 Jamar Beasley 17 42 28.8%
6 Gavin Glinton 20 47 29.9%
7 Ryan Pore 19 43 30.6%
8 Pete Marino 31 69 31.0%
9 Matt Taylor 20 44 31.3%
10 Shea Salinas 22 43 33.8%

With the biggest schedule yet, 2011 may provide an opportunity for a player to take part in a large number of games without ever cracking the first XI.

Substitution records

The record for appearances without a start in the regular season was set in 2003 by rookie forward Jamil Walker, who didn’t get a starting nod for San Jose that season until the MLS Cup Playoffs. While he may be more remembered for his postseason exploits—scoring in the four-goal comeback against LA, assisting on Landon Donovan’s first goal in the MLS Cup—he also came off the bench 19 times for the Earthquakes during that regular season without starting.

Dallas’s Eric Avila in 2009 came close to Walker’s record. He was at 18 entering the final two matches of the season, but he didn’t get into either one as Dallas fell just short of the final playoff spot.

Currently, Avila is also battling Walker for another, perhaps less desirable record:

While Walker never was never able to grab a starting spot, Avila is finally getting his chance with the injury to David Ferreira.

Happy anniversary, Jaime Moreno

Columbus’ Jeff Cunningham has appeared more times as a substitute than any other MLS player over his 14-year career, and it’s a role in which he’s been effective. However, he’s seen little action in 2011 and remains goalless, leaving him one behind Jaime Moreno for the all-time scoring lead.

Though they were briefly tied, Moreno scored No. 133 in the season finale, then bowed out of the game, seemingly for good. Unless Cunningham nets a brace in San Jose this Saturday, May 19 will mark the fourth anniversary of Moreno’s holding at least a share of the record. That’s the date in 2007 when the Bolivian scored at Toronto to tie Jason Kreis at 108 goals, though it would take three more months to get the next one and pass him.

Moreno’s length of time at the top is longer than Kreis’. The current Real Salt Lake head coach tied the record on June 19, 2004, and took sole possession a week later.

However, Moreno doesn’t have the longest reign. That honor goes to another former D.C. United hit man.

After the first few months in 1996, two men emerged who would set the pace for MLS goal-scoring: Raúl Díaz Arce and Roy Lassiter. Following a period of several years where the record was traded back and forth, Lassiter eventually took control. On March 20, 1999, he scored twice in D.C. United’s season opener away to Tampa Bay. (The historical coincidence is not lost that Lassiter made his name with Tampa before being acquired by United to replace Díaz Arce.)

Those were his 56th and 57th goals, enough to tie and pass his rival. Though Díaz Arce later came back to tie him twice, Lassiter wasn’t surpassed until Kreis managed it in 2004. That’s a run of more than five years at the top, and one Moreno is highly unlikely to eclipse.

Consecutive Starts from a Club’s Inception

KC Mark Chung 74
COL Steve Trittschuh 47
HOU Pat Onstad 41
DC Jeff Agoos 35
SJ Tim Martin 32
CHI Chris Armas 31
DAL Dodd/Farrer/Sonora 31
TB Steve Ralston 28
TOR Jim Brennan 27
CLB Billy Thompson 24
LA Mark Semioli 24
CHV Ezra Hendrickson 22
MIA Leo Cullen 19
NE Welton 17
NY Rhett Harty 17
PHI Harvey/Seitz 16
RSL Clint Mathis 13
SEA Hurtado/Jaqua 12

New teams and consistent starters

A quarter of the season done, and both Portland and Vancouver have settled into MLS, though with different results. The Timbers are six points up on their expansion brethren despite having a game in hand, and that may be reflected in the consistency of their lineup.

The Timbers have six players who’ve started every regular-season game: Rodney Wallace, Eric Brunner, Jeremy Hall, Jack Jewsbury, Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza. Meanwhile, Vancouver have only two: Alain Rochat and Jonathan Leathers.

How long will these starting streaks go remains to be season. But it’s safe to say they will have a hard time matching Mark Chung’s starting record. The former US international started the first 74 games in Kansas City history. After starting in the club’s maiden match in 1996, he didn’t miss a start until mid-1998.

No player for Philadelphia or Seattle could last more than 16 games. If Chung is out of sight, then that may seem like a more reachable goal.

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