Austin da Luz is one of the featured figures of this week's Climbing the Ladder series.
Getty Images

Climbing the Ladder: Longest wait for MLS debut

It’s been a great month for FC Dallas second-year man Andrew Wiedeman.

A few weeks ago, the former college forward started at right back and scored in a friendly for the FCD Reserves against the Venezuelan national team. Then after going the distance in the US Open Cup win over Orlando City a week ago, he got his first regular-season minutes on Saturday, coming on for Zach Loyd in the game’s dying moments.

Longest Time Between Overall and MLS Debuts

1 Eric Kronberg KC 2.38 06-04-2008 10-23-2010
2 Erik Ustruck HOU 2.00 07-10-2007 07-11-2009
3 Mike Chabala HOU 1.75 07-10-2007 04-11-2009
4 Yohance Marshall LA 1.45 04-07-2009 09-18-2010
5 Andrew Wiedeman FCD 1.18 04-28-2010 07-02-2011
6 Austin da Luz NY 1.08 04-27-2010 05-28-2011
7 Lance Parker CHV 1.07 07-13-2008 08-08-2009
8 Peter Lowry CHI 1.05 07-01-2008 07-18-2009
9 Rauwshan McKenzie KC 0.99 07-08-2008 07-04-2009
10 Jared Montz CHI 0.91 07-13-2005 06-11-2006

It must have been quite a relief to finally make his official MLS bow, as he previously made his competitive debut in a US Open Cup qualifier way back in April 2010.

New York’s Austin da Luz was recently was in the same boat. He made his regular-season debut after a similar length of time from his overall competitive debut (April 2010 to May 2011), and he’s now seeing regular action for the Red Bulls. About one out of every seven MLS players has debuted outside of a league game, mostly in the Open Cup. But only eight, including da Luz and Wiedeman, have had to wait more than a year between those two dates.

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Eric Kronberg was drafted back in 2006. It took him two years to see the field in Open Cup play, and then another two until he eventually got his chance as Jimmy Nielsen was rested in last year’s season finale.

Other current players who could end up in the top 10 this year include Colorado Rapids backup goalkeeper Steward Ceus (overall debut: April 14, 2010) and Columbus Crew defender Josh Williams (Sept. 9, 2010).

2. De Rosario one of the few to play for three teams in a single season.

Dwayne De Rosario made his D.C. United debut last Saturday, recording an assist in the 2-2 draw with Philadelphia. After starting the year with Toronto and quickly moving to New York, the four-time MLS Cup winner has now become the fifth MLS player to play for three teams in a single season.

He’s easily the highest-profile player to have done so; the others are Orlando Perez (2002), Winston Griffiths (2002), John Wolyniec (2006) and Kevin Goldthwaite (2007). Interestingly, all five played for New York during those seasons.

Griffiths is notable because he actually started his 2002 journey with a fourth team, Dallas, after they won a weighted lottery for his rights. He was quickly traded to New York, then made a stop with the LA Galaxy before ending the season with New England, where his shot off the bar in extra time of the 2002 MLS Cup may have been the closest the Revolution ever got to a title.

3. Rapids not taking care of business at home

With the missed opportunity to take all the points against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, the Colorado Rapids have now gone seven straight games without a win at home. It seems like it’s been a different challenge every week for the champions, with plenty of red cards and injuries to go around. That they’re still in a playoff position means things aren’t all bad, but the lack of home form is particularly striking considering how much notorious their altitude-aided advantage has been over the years.

MLS Teams With a Better Road Record
(from 1996-99, shootouts counted as draws for comparison purposes)

2002 New York 1.000 1.500 -0.500
2003 New York 1.267 1.533 -0.267
1999 D.C. United 1.750 2.000 -0.250
1998 LA Galaxy 2.063 2.313 -0.250
2009 Chicago 1.400 1.600 0-.200
1999 Tampa Bay 1.125 1.313 -0.188
2010 D.C. United 0.667 0.800 -0.133
1997 San Jose 1.063 1.188 -0.125
2010 LA Galaxy 1.933 2.000 -0.067
2003 San Jose 1.667 1.733 -0.067
1998 Tampa Bay 1.188 1.250 -0.063

Of course, they normally balanced out those great home records with poor away ones. Out of the 10 “old school” MLS teams which have been around since the 1990s, the Rapids easily have the biggest all-time difference between those two records. They’re followed by Kansas City in second, with Chicago and San Jose having the least difference.

That’s why it’s so unusual to see the 2011 Rapids struggling at home. They’re still sporting a .500 record, but they’ve gained one more point away in an equal number of games. Chivas USA are also doing very slightly better away.  If either finished the season with more points away, it would be quite a rare occurrence.

Only 11 of 180 teams in MLS history have ended the year worse at home than on the road (see chart at right). While there are two champions among them (1999 DC, 2003 SJ), there’s also a few teams with notorious home playoff failures. That includes the recent 2009 Chicago and 2010 LA teams, both of whom lost their respective Conference Championships on their home soil, as well as the 1998 Galaxy, whose failure at the last hurdle may top them all.

Led by Cobi Jones and Mauricio Cienfuegos, that team had the best regular-season record in league history and was the highest-scoring as well, hitting for three or more goals 15 times. Unfortunately for them, their offense dried up at the worst possible time, and the defense of the expansion Chicago Fire prevailed. It was doubly devastating, as the 1998 MLS Cup was played at the Rose Bowl.

4. The 10,000th goal is almost here

Another week in the books, and the milestone is even closer. The final goal on Sunday by Real Salt Lake’s Fabián Espíndola was No. 9,989 in MLS history though all competitions. With four games Wednesday night, those 11 goals are within reach. If not during this week, then it likely will happen in one of the earliest games on Saturday, either Sporting Kansas City-Chivas USA or New York-D.C. United, both of which kick off an hour earlier than any of the day’s other action.

Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android