The time has come to accept that the perception of the MLS is changing, it’s now widely acknowledged to be rapidly increasing in quality, even Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that it is “definitely improving”. The league is slowly losing its reputation as a retirement home for past their prime European players and now many U.S clubs have started youth academies that are beginning to produce promising talents.
So Rush Football have crossed the pond to take a look at the MLS’ current top goal-scorers. (However, the MLS season is still ongoing and does not finish until December, so this list is likely to change).
5. Diego Valeri (9 goals)
The Argentinian-born midfielder started his career with his hometown club Lanús in 2003, remaining loyal to them until 2009 and bagging himself 26 goals during that period. However, Valeri fancied a change and flew to Europe for a string of unsuccessful loans at clubs such as F.C Porto and UD Almería. Diego didn’t enjoy his European trip and jumped back on a Lanús bound plane for a couple more solid seasons in his hometown, where he even captained the club. But now the midfielder wanted a taste of the MLS, and got one, in the form of a loan to Portland Timbers, where he made 20 appearances and found the back of the net a handful of times. Clearly impressed by the Argentine, The Timbers snapped him up on a permanent basis and he has certainly rewarded their trust in his ability. Since 2013 he has scored over 40 goals, played in the MLS All-Star Team (in which he assisted the winning goal), scored the fastest goal the MLS Cup has ever seen, got in the MLS Best XI (twice), won MLS Newcomer of the Year and earned himself a contract extension until 2019.
4. Christian Ramirez (9 goals)
Christian Ramirez is an example of what the MLS is beginning to offer, U.S born players that rise through the ranks of college ‘soccer’. Raised in California, he excelled as a forward for his high school (La Quinta) and then played four years of college football for UC Santa Barbara Gauchos and Concordia Eagles. Next, in 2013, Christian moved to the Charlotte Eagles, who play in the United Soccer League, and netted a goal on his debut. After a successful year there, Ramirez, fed up of ‘Eagle’-themed teams, moved to Minnesota United FC in the league above (the North American Soccer League). In 2014 he equalled the league goal-scoring record for one season (20 goals), winning the Golden Boot by a margin of eight goals. When Minnesota moved to the MLS, Ramirez scored the first goal in their MLS history, and has since gone on to prove that the U.S can produce great players. At 26 years old, Christian Ramirez is certainly one to watch.
3. David Villa (10 goals)
Okay.. so we never said there weren’t any European veterans in the league. The MLS still has a number of stars that have proven themselves on the biggest stages, but David Villa is certainly not an example of someone who has let their world-class standard slip after a move to America. Villa was a goal-machine in Spain, scoring bucket-loads of goals for a number of clubs, such as Valencia, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. He is also Spain’s all-time top international goal-scorer. However, the Spaniard moved to newly-formed New York City in 2014 and has scored over 50 goals for them so far. Villa is now 35 years old, but is still scoring goals, finding the net a respectable 10 times in the current season.
2. Erick Torres (10 goals)
The Mexican striker started his youth career with Guadalajara in 2001, fast forward to 2013 and he was still there, in the senior team. However, the time had come to be loaned out to Chivas USA, and this is where his MLS journey began. Erick hit the ground running and scored 22 goals in 44 appearances, even scoring the winning on his debut against Toronto F.C. This made him the MLS’ all-time Mexican-born goalscorer and earned him a place in the MLS All-Star squad. This fantastic form caught the attention of Houston Dynamo who bought Torres on a permanent deal from Guadalajara, on the condition that he would return to the Mexican team for a 6-month loan spell. After the loan home, Erick failed to score for his first 22 matches for Houston and this resulted in being loaned out yet again, this time to Cruz Azul. However, at the beginning of the 2017 MLS season, Torres was back at Houston and since then he has found his form again, even getting a hat-trick against New York Red Bulls, becoming the second ever Mexican to score three in one game in the MLS.
1. Nemanja Nikolić (13 goals)
Nemanja started his senior career in Hungary at Barcsi SC in 2006. He then went on to have successful spells at other Hungarian clubs such as Kaposvár and Videoton, before heading to Poland in 2015 to bag more goals at Legia Warsaw. He was the top scorer in the Ekstraklasa during the 2015-16 season and this must have caught the eyes of the scouts at Chicago Fire as they snapped up the Hungarian striker on a three-year deal at the beginning of this season. Nemanja was an instant success, scoring 10 goals in the first 11 games of the season, and now he has notched up an impressive 13 – but will he still be number one come the end of the season?