What a breakthrough year for unheralded MLS strikers

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If we look at last year’s top goal scorers in Major League Soccer, it really was a case of the “usual suspects.”

The top six were Chris Wondolowski, Kenny Cooper, Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry and Eddie Johnson. That’s kind of a who’s who of known goal producers around MLS.

Furthermore, they were men with big stores of “been there, done that.” Cooper and Johnson were 28 to end last season. “Wondo” was a year older, 29. Henry, Keane and Saborio were already into their 30s.

More to the point here, at least four of them would have been circled as preseason favorites for the 2012 scoring title. Johnson and Cooper may have been slight surprises considering their career detours (or outright derailment in Johnson’s case). But given their histories of production and the fact that both remained in a striker’s career sweet spot (late 20s), their presence among the goal-scoring elite could hardly be called much of a surprise.

But look at the top goal-getters of 2013; this is no list of usual suspects!

These guys are talented, yes, but they are all breakout players in their own ways:

Jack McInerney, Philadelphia (First in MLS, 10 goals) – given last year’s late assault, this isn’t a 100 percent jaw-dropper. But you show me someone who thought “Jack Mac” would have a league-leading 10 goals by early June, I will show you someone who needs to be on the next plane for Vegas, because they are in possession of an actual, working model crystal ball.

Marco Di Vaio, Montreal (Second, 9 goals) – The Impact striker’s first year in MLS was good (5 goals in 17 matches), but it was “nice wine” good, not “$90-bottle champagne good.” So seeing Di Vaio (pictured) hit nine times in 12 matches this year is a real eye opener.

Claudio Bieler, Sporting Kansas City (Tied for third, 7 goals) – This is exactly why Sporting Kansas City imported the veteran Argentine striker this year. But we have seen plenty of strikers utterly fail to get anywhere close to good return on the Designated Player dollar. With DP strikers, we’ve learned to believe it when we see it.

Mike Magee, Chicago Fire (Tied for third, 7 goals) – The just-traded Chicago attacker hit his first for the Fire, adding to the six Magee struck for the Galaxy. So, clearly all the magic wasn’t left back at the Home Depot Center. (And it’s not even October or November yet; Magee tends to save his best for the stretch and for the post-season.)

Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls (Tied for fifth, 6 goals) – Here’s the “outlier” of the list. Everyone paying attention expected to see the graceful Red Bull hit man up among the leaders.

 Dominic Oduro, Columbus Crew (Tied for fifth, 6 goals) – The man did have 12 goals for Chicago in that breakout 2011 season. Then again, Oduro has averaged just 4.5 goals over his other six MLS seasons, so 2011 looked like the anomaly. If he keeps this up, we’ll need to give that a re-think.

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 FC Dallas (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It ended scoreless when the two sides met for the first time this season, and although there were goals in this one, it finished with the same outcome. The Dynamo and Dallas remain equal on points following the draw, with each team boasting 25 at the midway point through the MLS campaign. Goals from Erick “Cubo’ Torres and Maxi Urruti cancelled one another out at BBVA Compass Stadium, but it was the Dallas that had more of the chances in the match. The Dynamo remain one of the top sides in MLS at home, boasting a record of 7-0-2 in their opening nine matches in Houston.

Three two moments that mattered

19′ — Torres makes it 11 on the year! — Give Erick Torres an inch this season… Well, you know the rest of the saying…

59′ — Urruti makes Dynamo pay for missed chance on other end — The Dynamo were so close to making it 2-0 just a minute sooner, but Maxi Urruti had other plans for the visitors.

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Man of the match: Maxi Urruti

Goalscorers: Erick Torres (19′), Maxi Urruti (59′)

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Toronto FC was without some of its regulars on Friday night, but that didn’t matter much as Greg Vanney’s side avenged their loss to the Revolution from two weeks ago. Coming off of just two days’ rest, TFC continued its push towards an Eastern Conference title at BMO Field behind Drew Moor’s first goal of the season. Sebastian Giovinco was held in check most of the evening, but the Italian scorer did what he does best in the final minute of stoppage time to seal it for the home side with his seventh goal of the year. The Revs pushed and pushed during the second half for an equalizer but TFC’s resilience defensively proved superior as they kept the visitors off the scoreboard for their eighth shutout of 2017.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Moor taps in for early Toronto advantage — Even on two days’ rest Toronto looks like this…

57′ — Cheeky Nguyen keeps Revs in match — Lee Nguyen is typically known for his creativity in the offensive half but it was this clever play defensively that kept the Revolution down just one goal.

83′ — Kamara comes so close! — It’s just not meant to be on the night for the Revs.

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Man of the match: Alex Bono

Goalscorers: Drew Moor (11′), Sebastian Giovinco (90+6′)

Video: Orlando City product scores crazy bicycle kick

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Goals like this one below never grow old.

Orlando City academy product Alejandro Pereira scored a brilliant bicycle kick for his Under-17/18 side in their 2-0 win on Thursday night during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs.

Orlando will continue its path in the Academy Playoffs on Saturday when they face off against Players Development Academy (PDA) U-17/18, before meeting Indiana Fire U-17/18 on Monday.

Brazilian league filled with possible transfer targets

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SAO PAULO (AP) While soccer takes a rest in Europe and the Brazilian league gets going again, many local players have already caught the eyes of foreign clubs.

[ MORE: Confed Cup scenarios before final group stage matches ]

A few of them are already in Brazil coach Tite’s plans for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and signing them now instead of next season could be a real bargain.

Here are some names to know:

LUAN

A 24-year-old striker at title-favorite Gremio, Luan has yet to play abroad and his coach has already said it will be hard to keep him in Brazil until the end of the season. After eight matches, Luan has scored four goals. Gremio executives have said they won’t take less than 24 million euros ($27 million) for him. Luan was part of Brazil’s gold-medal winning team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He began the tournament on the bench, but eventually took a place in the starting lineup alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Ronaldinho said Luan deserves to be at Barcelona. “Luan would fit in perfectly there, he is very creative,” Ronaldinho said.

GUILHERME ARANA

More than 20 percent of the goals scored by Corinthians this year have come from the left foot of 20-year-old defender Guilherme Arana. An excellent Brazilian-style dribbler, Arana had several assists in the derbies against the team’s three Sao Paulo city rivals. Arana has yet to make his international debut, but he believes his short time with Tite at the club could help him get to Russia next year. Many in Brazilian media have dubbed him “the new Marcelo.”

LUCAS LIMA

A close friend of Neymar, 26-year-old midfielder Lucas Lima has been frequently linked with a transfer to Barcelona. In the first 100 days of 2017 he had 10 assists – the same number he produced all of last season. He is in top physical shape, something that has earned him praise from coaches and a series of callups from Tite to play with Brazil. Lima has rejected a series of offers from Chinese clubs because he wants to play in Europe.

GUSTAVO SCARPA

Fluminense midfielder Gustavo Scarpa is classy and cerebral, traits he tries to mirror from his hero Andres Iniesta. But the 23-year-old Brazilian can also provide some stunning shots from long distance, like the goal he scored from his own half in February in a Brazilian Cup match against Globo. Scarpa likes to play as a left winger, but he can also be used in a central midfield position and as a left back. Tite called on him for a friendly against Colombia in February. In the 2016 Brazilian league, he scored eight goals and had 10 assists. He has just finished recovering from a right foot injury.

DUDU

A fan-favorite at defending champion Palmeiras last season, 25-year-old striker Dudu has yet to score in this year’s competition. Still recovering from injury, Dudu is fast and often runs right at goal. He played at Dynamo Kyiv without much success from 2011-14, and he admits he was not very mature when that transfer happened. In March, he was part of the Brazil team for World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay and Paraguay, as a replacement of injured Douglas Costa.

RODRIGO CAIO

A 23-year-old Sao Paulo defender who has frequently been called up by Tite, Rodrigo Caio has played more than 200 matches for his club. Caio wants to go to Europe after a first attempt at Valencia fell through — he failed a medical check because of a now-healed knee injury. Also a gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics, the defender can play as a defensive midfielder. Although he looks a lot like Kaka, his style is more like Dunga’s: great tackles, accurate passing and leadership.