Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Whether or not Chris Wondolowski catches Roy Lassiter, this season deserves to be held up as an amazing achievement.
One goal is all the separates Chris Wondolowski from etching his name into the record book. He's two goals away from having that spot all to himself. On Saturday, facing a team that he scored against twice in their last meeting, he'll have a chance to tie or pass Roy Lassiter for the most goals scored in a single MLS season.
The headlines will mostly be focused on the No. 27, Lassiter's goal total. But in some ways, Wondolwoski's season is already better.
Let's consider the era in which these two players competed. Lassiter set the record in the inaugural season of MLS. That year, the average game featured 3.3 goals per game. No one was as good as Lassiter at scoring them, obviously, but there were several other good goal-scorers that year.
Raul Diaz Arce bagged 23 goals that year for D.C. United. Eduardo Hurtado had 21 for the LA Galaxy. The No. 5 goal-scorer that year was Brian McBride, who was playing for the Columbus Crew, and he had 17.
Compare that to this year's leader board where Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio is second with 17. If the season ended now, Wondolowski would win the Golden Boot by an astounding nine goals, a 53-percent advantage over the runner-up. Both of those figures would be MLS records, besting Mamadou Diallo's 2000 season in which his 26 goals were eight more than the second-highest total.
As a whole, the league is a lot different too. There's much more attention being paid to defense these days, and even though scoring is up about a tenth of a goal from last year, there are still only 2.66 goals scored per game.
The leading goalkeeper in 1996 was Jorge Campos, who allowed 1.20 goals per game. That mark would rank sixth this year and two goalkeepers are allowing fewer than .80 goals per game.
Since 2003, there have only been two players to score at least 20 goals in a season before Wondolowski did it this year. Back in Lassiter's era, it was an almost annual thing. Between 1996 and 2002 (Lassiter's final year), six players scored at least 20 goals in a season and at least one player did it in four of those seven seasons. Going into this year, eight of the 10 top goal-scoring seasons came during Lassiter's career. No one had even come within sniffing distance of Lassiter since Carlos Ruiz and Taylor Twellman scored 24 and 23 goals in 2002, respectively.
It had been so long since anyone had made a run at Lassiter that many had stopped thinking it would ever happen. That it's Wondolowski, a player many wrote off as a fluke when he burst onto the scene in 2010, is only fitting. His whole career, at least the last three years, has been built on reworking our expectations.