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Lost in a busy MLS weekend: Landon Donovan's milestone

Are you looking at Major League Soccer's all-time leader in goals and assists? Not yet you aren't ... but Landon Donovan certainly may have both marks in pocket before it's over.
Are you looking at Major League Soccer's all-time leader in goals and assists? Not yet you aren't ... but Landon Donovan certainly may have both marks in pocket before it's over.

In an eventful MLS weekend, one big event got lost in the shiffle shuffle.

Landon Donovan scored goal No. 100 in league play. He’s the sixth to reach that milepost.

It’s significant because, depending on the man’s ongoing transfer saga, it could be the last big benchmark until Donovan laps the field and assumes leadership in the two most watched statistical categories, goals and assists.

Simply put, if Donovan remains in MLS and stays relatively injury free, he’ll own both marks within a few years. Bet on it.

Donovan joined Jaime Moreno, Jeff Cunningham, Ante Razov, Jason Kreis and Taylor Twellman in the MLS 100 Club. In fact, he caught Twellman and is now tied for fifth on the all-time MLS list.

Moreno is the all-time leader with 132 – and he’s about done. You know that if you’ve seen him play lately for D.C. United.  Besides, the RFK outfit desperately needs to settle into a youth-oriented makeover, and that’s highly unlikely to include the enduring Bolivian veteran. So, he won’t go much further than the current 132.

Cunningham has 125 and doesn’t appear to have the juice to go much past Moreno, if he can get there at all. Razov is done. Kreis is coaching and Twellman … well, who knows. His case is quite unfortunate.

Now to Donovan, who is 28.

A transfer to England is looking less likely, given the depressed market and other complicating factors. (Everton’s lack of cash, new rules restricting roster sizes and Donovan’s age, which would make it hard for a club to recoup the investment within a couple of years.)

So, let’s assume for now that the Galaxy attacker stays in place.

He’s likely to be standing on 105-110 goals by the end of this year. If he averages just 10 goals over the following three seasons – a fairly modest target all things considered – he’ll have the goals leadership in pocket by the 2013 season. (Frankly, I see it happening somewhere in 2012, assuming once again that he stays here and doesn’t miss significant time due to injury.)

And for anyone who wants to debate about that 10-goal average target, consider that Donovan has averaged 12.8 goals over the last five seasons, and that he’s only now into the sweet spot of a player’s career, old enough to know, still young enough to do. Plus, MLS seems quite likely to adopt that 34-game schedule by next year, which would further enhance his ability to reach the target.

So let’s call that debate "settled."

Now, as for assists: The Galaxy man is currently 7th on the league’s all-time ledger with 86. He has averaged about 9 assists over the last five seasons. (That doesn’t include this year; he has 11 already, so that five-year average will climb.)

All-time leader Steve Ralston has 135 assists. Donovan trails him by 49, a deficit that will shrink before the season ends. So, assuming Donovan can average 9-10 assists, he’ll catch Ralston by age 33.

It seems reasonable to assume that Donovan’s assist totals will stay fairly consistent over the next few years. Yes, he may lose a little of that signature zip. But he’s a studious player, and guys like that get smarter about the way they play. So I see Donovan possibly adding to the creative elements of his game and possibly leaning more toward "provider" more than "scorer" as he moves along. Plus, I don’t see his set piece ability declining. That may even get better with age, and that’s saying something considering the consistently accurate free kicks and corner kicks he supplies today.

Donovan has taken a lot of heat through the years for playing in MLS rather than taking up station overseas. At the end of it all, he may look back and reap the benefits of being the best scorer and assist man, statistically speaking, to ever hold a spot in the league.

I know I’d bet on it.

Here are the current MLS All-Time leaders in goals and assist (updated through games from last weekend)

  • GOALS                         TEAM    GP  GOALS
  • Jaime Moreno                  DC*    335   132
  • Jeff Cunningham              DAL*   332   125
  • Ante Razov                    CHV*   262   114
  • Jason Kreis                   RSL*   305   108
  • Taylor Twellman               NE     174   101
  • Landon Donovan           LA*    220    99
  • Roy Lassiter                 DC*    179    88
  • Edson Buddle                 LA*    219    85
  • Raul Diaz Arce             COL*   150    82
  • Carlos Ruiz                TOR*   155    82

  • ASSISTS                        TEAM    GP  ASTS
  • Steve Ralston                 NE*    378   135
  • Carlos Valderrama              COL*   175   114
  • Preki                     KC*    242   112
  • Jaime Moreno                 DC*    335   102
  • Marco Etcheverry             DC     191   101
  • Cobi Jones                   LA     306    91
  • Landon Donovan              LA*    220    86
  • Andy Williams                  RSL*   289    83
  • Mauricio Cienfuegos            LA     206    80
  • Chris Henderson                NY*    317    80