Back in March, Matt “MLS Analyst” Doyle posed a question to his followers on Twitter:
25 goals is doable for Chris Wondolowski this year. Agree or disagree?— Matthew Doyle (@MLS_Analyst) March 5, 2012
The tweet didn’t receive much fanfare, perhaps because it was a stretch for anybody to think 25 goals would be netted in a single season by any MLSer. With two games remaining, Wondolowski finds himself just two shy of eclipsing the single-season goals mark set by “Rocket” Roy Lassiter back in 1996. San Jose’s iconic striker has been nothing short of remarkable, scoring an astonishing 25 goals in 30 games while making the MLS Analyst look like a fortuneteller.
Such an effort raises the question, is Wondolowski having the best season ever in MLS history?
The MLS landscape has changed markedly from Lassiter’s 1996 season. The 10 teams competing in that inaugural season collectively averaged 3.37 goals per game. The high-flying action helped spur interest in a fledgling league, but over time, the scoring slowed down. Fast-forward to 2012 and MLS has added nine teams and the per-game average is down to 2.68.
This has not stymied the predatory Wondolowski. The Earthquakes forward has not only propelled his club into the playoffs, but has positioned them to clinch their second Supporters’ Shield with a win on Sunday against the LA Galaxy at Buck Shaw Stadium (4 p.m. PT / Galavision, CSN California).
Similar to Wondolowski, Lassiter led the Mutiny to the Supporters’ Shield with a record of 20-12-0 for 60 points. The Earthquakes currently sit with a 19-6-7 record for a league-best 64 points. The strike rate of the Quakes’ talisman has not come without drama, too; 11 of his 25 goals have arrived as game winners – an MLS record.
Lassiter’s 1996 season included four assists to give him 58 points (a calculation previously used in the early MLS days where a goal is worth two points and an assist worth one) on the year. Wondolowski sits on 57 points by adding seven helpers. With two games remaining, Wondolowski may be on the verge of history. His goals tend to arrive in streaks and over the last three years he’s developed a habit of wreaking havoc on opposing defenses come October. In fact, he has scored nine more goals than any other MLSer during the final month of regular season play since 2010.
With Lassiter scheduled to be in attendance for Sunday’s California Clasico, he may witness his 16-year streak end firsthand and there couldn’t be a better matchup to see it broken.
A closer statistical examination of Lassiter’s 1996 season compared to Wondolowski’s current season, as of Oct. 18, follows below:
|Wondo vs. Lassiter|
|Wondo’s total goals||25|
|Lassiter’s total goals||27|
|Wondo’s goals per game||0.83|
|Lassiter’s goals per game||0.9|
|Earthquakes' total points||64|
|Mutiny’s total points||58|
|Earthquakes' points per game||1.9|
|Mutiny’s points per game||1.93|
|Total goals for 2012 Earthquakes||69|
|Total goals for 1996 Mutiny||66|
|Wondo’s percentage of team goals||36%|
|Lassiter’s percentage of team goals||41%|
|2012 MLS goals per game||2.68|
|1996 MLS goals per game||3.37|