A real wackiness is setting in on this year’s Golden Boot chase in Major League Soccer. With six regular season weeks remaining, the league’s top goal scorers presently are all lesser likely candidates in their own way.
If you asked supporters at their respective clubs, or fans who follow MLS action closely, for assessments of these guys individually, you’d probably get replies that fell somewhere between "just OK" and "fairly unsatisfying." No, that’s not terrible. But it’s probably not the assessment you’d expect of a dude who might just claim an MLS scoring title.
Let’s have a look:
At the top is Thierry Henry (12 goals). He’s nailed some beauties, and Lord knows where the stumbling Red Bulls would be without the dozen contributions from their star Frenchman. On the other hand, locals aren’t ecstatic about the way he drifts through long portions of matches. And besides, no one can be happy with any member of a team that hasn’t won since early July. I mean, people are fed up with this underachieving lot – and yet Henry has the inside track on a Golden Boot (which he would stack up alongside a bunch of other highfalutin team and individual honors). See what I mean? Goofy, no?
Next up is Landon Donovan (11 goals). Donovan isn’t haven’t a bad season at all – especially not when it comes to his performance for the high-flying Galaxy. On the other hand, he’s probably not having his best campaign. And even if it’s a little unfair, his sub-par performance with the national team gets tossed into the blender when we all examine the soccer year 2011. Still, among the top foursome of current leaders, he’s probably the one who can win and not have everybody scrunch up their face like they just got a whiff of bad fish.
After that we have Columbus’ Andres Mendoza (11 goals), who would be one of the least likely Golden Boot winners in MLS history. First, he hasn’t exactly produced prolifically for the Crew. Rather, he’s been King of the Penalty Spot in Ohio. Five goals, or nearly half of his total, have come from the 12-yard mark. But that’s not the only thing that makes his appearance in the Top Five a head-scratcher. Earlier this year a lot of fans and writers (myself included) were plastering him with "DP bust" stickers. Plus, he’s angered fans and teammates with a couple of selfish stunts this year, which means we could have an MLS scoring champ who really isn’t even that popular in his own locker room. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
He would certainly be one of the least known MLS scoring champs, although it's probably impossible to unseat 2001 winner Alex Pineda Chacon for that lesser distinguished distinction. Heck, the SB Nation Auto Tagger tool doesn't even know who is is. See?
Right behind him is Charlie Davies (11 goals). He’s hit four from the penalty spot and at least four that were relatively simple finishes, the last touch on bright or brilliant stuff from elsewhere on the team. So … uh … is it really that great of a season? It's a good season. But one worthy of an MLS scoring title? Meh.
And don’t forget, while there are legions of CD9 supporters there are just as many who hold the young striker in contempt for his notorious diving stunts this year. So there’s another who could win the award but fail to win much popular fan support.
We also have San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, Vancouver’s Eric Hassli and Dallas’ Brek Shea (with 10 goals each). Wondo is doing fine in my opinion, finishing a sufficient percentage of chances for a team that’s about as unimaginative as they come offensively. But I get the feeling that not everyone around Buck Shaw feels that way. And he certainly doesn’t seem to get a lot of backing (outside the Bay area, at least) when it comes to national team consideration.
Hassli may be better known for ridiculous red cards than for goal scoring, even though he’s a real handful as a striker and certainly is having a productive season for the Whitecaps.
Shea would seem deserving if he can rest up a bit and finish strong, but even he would create his own little circle of the unusual: Shea, 21 years old, would be the youngest Golden Boot winner yet.