The fluctuation in MLS goal-scoring surprised me, so I decided to re-evaluate the top goal scorers in league history. I wanted to give a little extra credit to attackers who were scoring during the lean years, and temper those who scored during a higher-league average season.
I went through the top goal-scorers each year, and stripped out the PK goals. Next, I created a Weighted Goals index, based on how much that season’s goals-per-game average deviated from the historic median of 2.86 goals per game. I applied that to each player’s goal total, and then compared that rate per 90 to the total goals scored that season.
Analyzing goals alongside a season-adjusted goal-scoring rate reveals three underrated goal scoring performances.
Josh Wolff – Chicago Fire, 1998
Before becoming US assistant coach, before scoring in the original Dos A Cero, Josh Wolff made the absolute most of his playing time with Chicago. Behind Ante Razov and Roman Kosecki on the depth chart, Wolff started just 4 games as a rookie, playing 651 minutes. However, he scored an astonishing 8 goals on 14 shots on target, presaging his rise with the US. Even in 1998 – the highest goals-per-game year in league history – this is an impressive 8-goal season.
Alan Fucking Gordon – San Jose Earthquakes, 2012
Fandom has more or less sucked as a Quakes fan since 2012. That Supporters’ Shield winning season is an outlier from the average-to-abysmal others. One catalyst for that outlier: hero of The Beckham Experiment, Alan Gordon. Gordon embodied the Goonies attitude of the team, scoring 13 goals in 1,300 minutes in a season with below-average scoring rates. Fittingly, Gordon capped his year with a 90th minute assist on Eddie Johnson’s game winning goal for the US against the mighty Antigua and Barbuda.
Yes, this season is a case study in over-performance and predictive power: Gordon’s Expected Goals were 6.21. Gordon ended his career with 0.42 non-PK goals per 90, though, remaining effective as a super-sub up through his retirement last season.
Didier Drogba – Montreal Impact, 2015
Though hopefully no one would underrate Didier Drogba’s career, it’s worth noting just how suddenly he transformed Montreal’s 2015 season. He scored a hattrick against Chicago in his first start. Despite arriving mid-season, Drogba led the team with 11 goals, tallying that in a mere 870 minutes. While other high-profile designated players had varying degrees of success that season, Drogba highlighted the upside of talented players in their later stages.
Here are the goal weightings for each season:
|Year||Goal Weighting||Goals Per Game|