Is Josef Martínez the Best Striker in MLS History?

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Josef Martinez

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.

Matches Minutes Goals Penalties NPG G/90 NPG/90
Josef Martínez 42 3377 41 7 34 1.1 0.91
BWP 158 12508 100 8 92 0.72 0.66
Mamadou Diallo 74 5846 47 7 40 0.72 0.62
Taylor Twellman 195 15046 101 3 98 0.6 0.59
Cyle Larin 87 6530 43 0 43 0.59 0.59
Robbie Keane 125 10808 83 14 69 0.69 0.58
Giovanni Savarese 116 8173 51 2 49 0.56 0.54
David Villa 111 8849 71 19 52 0.72 0.53
Jozy Altidore 116 8208 55 7 48 0.6 0.53
Sebastian Giovinco 103 8719 60 9 51 0.62 0.53
Roy Lassiter 179 13769 88 9 79 0.58 0.52
Diego Serna 124 9681 57 1 56 0.53 0.52
Raul Diaz Arce 150 12423 82 13 69 0.59 0.5
Carlos Ruiz 183 14031 89 16 73 0.57 0.47
Edson Buddle 304 19795 100 0 100 0.46 0.46
Brian Ching 233 15746 82 2 80 0.49 0.46
Dom Dwyer 153 12093 69 7 62 0.51 0.46
Jeff Cunningham 365 22751 134 20 114 0.53 0.45
Ante Razov 262 20357 114 13 101 0.5 0.45
Alvaro Saborio 158 11552 73 15 58 0.57 0.45
Fanendo Adi 125 9015 53 8 45 0.53 0.45
Thierry Henry 122 10403 51 0 51 0.44 0.44
Juan Pablo Angel 152 12124 72 13 59 0.53 0.44
Chris Wondolowski 312 24348 140 24 116 0.52 0.43
Connor Casey 195 12697 71 11 60 0.5 0.43
Ignacio Piatti 112 9633 57 13 44 0.53 0.41
Clint Dempsey 185 15329 72 7 65 0.42 0.38
Dwayne De Rosario 343 25189 104 14 90 0.43 0.37
Kenny Cooper 211 15275 75 12 63 0.44 0.37
Landon Donovan 340 28898 145 31 114 0.45 0.36
Josh Wolff 267 19420 80 3 77 0.37 0.36
Jason Kreis 305 25242 108 10 98 0.39 0.35
Kei Kamara 303 22790 106 9 97 0.38 0.35
Ronald Cerritos 221 16553 71 8 63 0.39 0.34
Brian McBride 220 18472 80 13 67 0.39 0.33
Diego Valeri 166 13798 65 14 51 0.42 0.33
Jaime Moreno 340 25792 133 44 89 0.46 0.31
Preki 242 19953 79 23 56 0.36 0.25

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.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Well thought out, good rationale. However, the question is if he’s the best striker to play in MLS, not the best to have a long career. It’s clear he’s the best to ever play MLS by many metrics, and of course the eye test.

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