Split image: David Villa (New York City FC) and Nikolic Nemanja (Chicago Fire)
USA Today Sports

Race to 28? NYCFC's David Villa, Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic chasing history

2017 is shaping up to be the year of the goalscorer.

The current MLS campaign is featuring some of the best individual scoring seasons in league history. Reigning MVP and New York City FC forward David Villa and Chicago Fire newcomer Nemanja Nikolic are currently battling at the top of the Golden Boot table, with Villa in the lead with 17 goals and Nikolic one behind with 16 strikes. Both players have an outside shot at the MLS single-season record of 27 goals, currently jointly held by Bradley Wright-Phillips (2014), Chris Wondolowski (2012) and Roy Lassiter (1996).

As seen in the above chart, both Villa and Nikolic are on pace to score about 25 goals this year. That’d leave them a bit short of the all-time record, but would put them in some excellent historical company.

Villa is already in second in MLS history with 0.68 goals per game among players who have scored at least 20 goals. If he breaks the record and gets to 28 goals, that number would move up to 0.72 goals per game. His GPG average would get to 0.71 if he ties the all-time mark and would move to 0.69 GPG if he hits 25 goals this season. Those calculations assume Villa plays all 11 of NYCFC’s remaining regular season games.

Those are wildly impressive numbers, but Nikolic could overtake them. If the Hungarian international plays the rest of Chicago’s games and hits 25 goals, he’d average 0.74 goals per game. He’d hit 0.79 goals per game if he ties the record. If he hits 28 goals and breaks the record, Nikolic would have a goals per game average of 0.82. That number would place him first on the all-time MLS list, putting him narrowly ahead of Stern John, who averaged 0.8 goals per game in 55 matches with Columbus.

(All stats below come from the MLS Communications Department.)

GOALS PER GAME, ALL-TIME IN MLS  
PLAYER GP GOALS AVG
Stern John 55 44 0.8
David Villa 85 58 0.68
Robbie Keane 125 83 0.66
Didier Drogba 33 21 0.64
Bradley Wright-Phillips 129 82 0.64
Mamadou Diallo 74 47 0.64
Sebastian Giovinco 79 50 0.63
Taylor Twellman 174 101 0.58
Obafemi Martins 72 40 0.56
Ola Kamara 49 27 0.55
·         Minimum: 20 goals      
 

Of course, Villa and Nikolic aren’t the only front men having strong seasons. Wright-Phillips is up to his usual tricks with the Red Bulls, Sebastian Giovinco is enjoying another solid year in Toronto and Ola Kamara is thriving again for Crew SC. Those three players are joined by Villa in the top 10 in MLS history in goals per 90 minutes.

GOALS PER 90 MINUTES, ALL-TIME IN MLS  
PLAYER MIN GOALS AVG
Stern John 4463 44 0.89
Didier Drogba 2520 21 0.75
Mamadou Diallo 5846 47 0.72
David Villa 7268 58 0.72
Bradley Wright-Phillips 10377 82 0.71
Robbie Keane 10808 83 0.69
Sebastian Giovinco 6665 50 0.68
Musa Shannon 2830 20 0.64
Ola Kamara 3852 27 0.63
Obafemi Martins 5871 40 0.61
Minimum: 20 goals      
 

Meanwhile, Wright-Phillips and Wondolowski already in the top 10 in league history in career multi-goal games, while Villa (14) and Giovinco (13) are both knocking on the door. 

MOST GAMES, 2 GOALS OR MORE, ALL-TIME IN MLS
PLAYER GP GAMES
Landon Donovan 340 32
Jeff Cunningham 365 22
Ante Razov 262 22
Robbie Keane 125 20
Chris Wondolowski 282 18
Bradley Wright-Phillips 129 18
Jaime Moreno 340 17
Carlos Ruiz 183 17
Edson Buddle 304 16
Taylor Twellman 174 16

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