Over the weekend, Josef Martínez scored his sixth MLS hat trick in only 42 games breaking the previously held record of five and getting him to 41 goals in only 42 games. His prolific scoring in both seasons led to questions over the weekend by two soccer shows, ESPN FC and MLS’s Postgame Show, about if he was the best MLS striker of all time.
Fellow Venezuelan Alejandro Moreno was empathetic about it saying “There is no question about it… Josef Martínez. Best striker in MLS history” while Paul Mariner said it was Robbie Keane. On the MLS postgame show, former teammate Bobby Boswell also said he was the best in MLS history while Bobby Warshaw said no, but I don’t think he understood the question.
Because of this debate, I decided to take a deeper look into the stats of the top strikers in MLS history.
|Raul Diaz Arce||150||12423||82||13||69||0.59||0.5|
|Juan Pablo Angel||152||12124||72||13||59||0.53||0.44|
|Dwayne De Rosario||343||25189||104||14||90||0.43||0.37|
I went in to the MLS All-Time goalscoring database and compiled 38 of the top strikers with the most goals and/or best goals per game rate. Then I took their minutes, goals, and penalties scored and put them into a spreadsheet. After, I took their goals and non penalty goals per 90 minutes and ordered the above spreadsheet based on non-penalty goals (NPG) per 90 minutes.
Josef Martínez is at the top averaging almost an NPG every 90 minutes while Bradley Wright Phillips came in second. The top two aren’t surprising considering both have broken many records during their time in the MLS. The Senegalese striker Mamadou Diallo only played 74 matches in his time with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, MetroStars (New York Red Bulls), and the New England Revolution but was prolific averaging .62 NPG per 90 minutes.
Some of the surprising results come with older players (and one new player). The two highest scoring MLS players ever and widely-regarded best-ever MLS strikers both average less than .5 NPG per 90 minutes with Chris Wondolowski ranking 24th and Landon Donovan ranking 30th all-time in terms of NPG per 90. Thierry Henry also ranks 22nd in MLS history which isn’t necessarily surprising but he did score over 10 goals in four of his five years in New York despite being in his middle 30s. Another surprising finding was David Villa not being in the top five and averaging only .53 NPG per 90 minutes.
Josef Martínez being first isn’t surprising but is it enough to crown him the best MLS scorer in history? In my opinion, no. I definitely would call him the most prolific MLS scorer of all-time but he still has to get at least 75 goals to be considered the GOAT.