Thursday Thermometer: Golden Boot race
Welcome to the Thursday Thermometer, where we take a look at who’s hot and who’s not in MLS. This week, the strikers get their time in the Thermometer’s (dim) spotlight. Because strikers generally need more acclaim?
We have less than a month of regular season games left. The cream has risen to the top amongst MLS goal scorers, and the race for the Golden Boot is well under way. So who’s got their goal-scoring shoes on?
To the Surprise of No One…
If you’ve been paying any attention to the league in the last month, you’ll have heard Omar Cummings’ name. Hype? Not a chance.
Cummings is the hottest striker in MLS. In his last five league games, he has seven goals. That’s not a typo. He has 12 goals on the season – two behind league leader Edson Buddle – which means that he has more than doubled his total since Aug 21. Nearly six months of the season were blown out of the water by five torrid matches. Oh yeah, he also scored an international goal for Jamaica during that stretch.
Cummings credits his newfound form to a tactical switch by Colorado Rapids head coach Gary Smith. Whether it’s that or the Wheaties he’s been eating, the striker is now on pace to score 18 goals and take the Golden Boot. While it’s unlikely that he’ll keep up a 1.4 goal per game average, Mr. Buddle would do well to beware.
New York Red Bulls fans will remember Juan Pablo Ángel’s debut season because of his chase for the Golden Boot, if nothing else. Despite playing five fewer matches than eventual winner Luciano Emilio, Ángel missed out by just one goal. (A little “what if?” for you: Ángel was scoring at a rate of .8 G/Gm at the regular season’s end in 2007. An additional five games would have given him the Boot with three goals to spare.)
Fans were hopeful that they would eventually see the Colombian lift the award. Unfortunately, it looks like JPA won’t get that opportunity. The striker’s gone cold recently, scoring at a rate of .2 G/gm. With that kind of production, Angel will still finish below Buddle.
Chris Wondolowski has been a revelation for the San Jose Earthquakes this season, scoring 12 goals and helping put the Quakes on track for their first playoff berth since their reincarnation. And at the rate he’s scoring, he’ll finish with more goals than LA Galaxy rival Buddle. Boy, would it be sweet for Quakes fans to see their guy win the award over their glitzy neighbors down the coast. Keep a close eye on Wondo as the dark horse candidate.
Unrelated, But Still Troubling
If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. But if you don’t shoot on target, you also don’t score. Which brings us to the Seattle Sounders’ Fredy Montero.
Montero has two goals in his last five games. That’s a very respectable figure, and it puts him solidly in the middle of the pack among the league’s top scorers. But Montero’s two goals came in one match: Aug. 28 against the Chicago Fire. For those keeping score at home, that’s five matches ago for the Sounders. It would be a stretch to call Montero hot.
More troubling perhaps to the Emerald City is Montero’s inability to find the target. Among strikers who have at least 10 goals this season, anywhere between 50 and 69 percent of their shots are on frame. Except for Montero. The Sounders standout is putting just 31 percent of his chances on target.
Montero is shooting plenty. He leads top scorers in total shots taken over the last five games, tied with Colorado's Conor Casey. But Casey has put 69 percent of his shots on target, and has four goals as a result.