Best Goal Celebrations - primary image

Breaking down the best goal celebrations in MLS history | Greg Seltzer

The COVID-19 pause has allowed us to reminisce over the most enjoyable occurrences in Major League Soccer history, but we haven't yet touched on one personality-driven facet: goal celebrations.

Now, we’re here to praise the greatest post-goal merrymaking that MLS has witnessed during its first quarter century. Some were solo jobs, while others were team efforts. With one emotion-packed exception, they were all one-off celebrations.

That means no patented moves we've seen dozens of times (such as Robbie Keane's tumbling finger guns) and no perfectly-cool-but-routinely-repeated displays (like the Dragon Ball Z stance of Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez). That also means we won't be saluting any otherwise awesome celebrations used by numerous players, which includes the ever-popular roundoff backflip.

Without any further ado, here are the first inductees into our MLS goal celebration hall of fame.

Clint Dempsey

Deuce kicks off our list with a pair of celebrations that have since been repeated by other players. In Week 3 of the 2005 season, Dempsey nodded home the late stand-up winner in New England's wild 4-3 triumph at D.C. United.

RFK Stadium doubled as the Washington Nationals’ initial home, and Dempsey took a not-so-subtle dig at that fact. He raced over to where home plate sat for MLB games and smacked an imaginary home run. Since, the celebration has been emulated by the likes of Matt Miazga and Carlos Vela.

One week later, Dempsey buried an early opener to set the Revs on their way to a 3-0 victory at Chicago. Once again, he originated an oft-repeated celebration by "putting the Fire out" with the old stop, drop and roll. 

Alberth Elis

Back in 2017, the Houston Dynamo forward broke the ice late in a 2-1 win over Minnesota United, and then assumed the Black Panther character. Elis, also known as La Panterita, memorably donned the superhero mask from Marvel's hit cinematic universe and bared his claws to the crowd.

Alecko Eskandarian

Just four games into the Red Bulls era, the former D.C. United forward ruffled more than a few New York feathers after scoring during a 4-1 rout by the visitors.

Eskandarian originally thought against razzing the club formerly known as the MetroStars, but decided to proceed when D.C. found their locker room Gatorade tub filled with Red Bull energy drinks. Upon scoring, he caught a can thrown from the sideline, took a big swig and quickly spit it out in disgust.  

Marco Fabian

The Mexico national team midfielder often underwhelmed in his lone season with Philadelphia, but did manage one of 2019's best celebrations. After firing home a nifty opener in the Union's Week 5 win at FC Cincinnati, Fabian dribbled basketball-style to the corner flag for a tomahawk dunk through Alejandro Bedoya's arm hoop.

Diego Fagundez

One would imagine that, as a kid, the New England Revolution playmaker never dreamed he'd join a musket brigade. But that's precisely what the Homegrown Player did when starting the home side's rally against Chicago. Fagundez deposited a simple header, leaped over the signage and mimed firing off a celebration shot alongside The Musket Men of Gillette Stadium.

Kei Kamara

On volume alone, the well-traveled striker could have a full article to himself. Kamara has authored so many memorable post-goal antics, it's hard to pick a favorite. From the "slo-mo" celebration and "skateboard grind" on end-line signage to a Michael Jackson tribute and twerking, he rarely fails to amuse.

I nearly went with the St. Patrick's Day jig he danced with CJ Sapong, if only because teammate Graham Zusi was simply not having it. Ultimately, I chose Kamara's tribute to the Columbus Crew's original badge. After scoring early in the 2015 season (Columbus had just switched to a new logo), Kamara pulled yellow hard hats out of hiding and grabbed two fans to join him in striking a pose.

Masato Kudo

In 2016, the Japanese forward opened his Whitecaps account and paid tribute to a national pastime from back home. After Kudo started a second-half comeback in Vancouver's 2-1 win over Cascadia nemesis Portland, he enlisted Pa-Modou Kah for an impromptu sumo demonstration.

Steven Lenhart

Some goals are almost too serendipitous and deserve a celebration as fittingly auspicious. Such was the case when the San Jose striker and his trademark blond afro were honored by Steven Lenhart Wig Night during the summer of 2012.

Chicago were in town, and held a 1-0 lead into the final moment of stoppage time. Lenhart, who came off the bench near the hour mark, strode onto a loose ball and lashed home to rescue a point for the Earthquakes. He then found a souvenir wig, pulled it on over his actual hair (needing a second try, mind you) and sprinted away in jubilation.

Eddie Lewis

This is the one celebration listed for which I can't actually confirm a date or victimized opponent. I don't even have a clip with the preceding goal attached. It definitely happened some time during the final three seasons of Lewis' tenure with the San Jose Clash (now known as the Quakes). In fact, it seemed so cool that I had to recreate it a few weeks later after scoring for my Sunday league side.

Nicolas Lodeiro

This is another celebration that has been repeated by others (most recently by Jozy Altidore). For Lodeiro, who only breaks it out on big occasions, it’s much more personal.

In an August 2016 win over Real Salt Lake, the Sounders ace honored his first goal for the club with a message to his late father. It was a celebration first carried out during Lodeiro's time with Nacional, when the only contact with his dad on game days occurred by phone. After striking home, the midfielder took off his trusty left boot and "dialed up" his pops as if to have a quick chat.

Josef Martinez

It took nearly two full seasons for Atlanta United and their deadly hit man to have much worth celebrating against the New York Red Bulls. 

That all changed in the opening leg of their 2018 Eastern Conference semifinal tie, when the striker finally broke through against Luis Robles to spark the 3-0 victory at Mercedes-Benz that started Atlanta's title run. Martinez and friends had finally smoked RBNY, bringing a cool satisfaction he made evident with his celebration.

Clint Mathis

Like anyone who's dope enough to be fresh, I'm a sucker for old school hip-hop dance moves. Just before heading off to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Mathis gave us the illest one we’ve seen from an MLS player to date. He smashed home a volley, ripped off his shirt, went to ground for a solid version of the worm and topped it all off with a b-boy freeze. Pretty fly for a white guy, indeed.

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