August 1, 2016
In praise of goal-scorers: Frank Lampard, Lucky Mkosana and Bradley Wright-Phillips
By Michael Lewis
Frank Lampard acknowledges the fans after scoring his second goal in NYC FC's 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Vincent Carchietta /USA TODAY
Today we exalt this weekend's goal-scorers from the three New York professional men's soccer teams.
Let's hear it for Frank Lampard, Lucky Mkosana and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
They all made their own impacts in what was a New York City FC victory, a Cosmos win and a dramatic Red Bulls' draw.
Of course we all know that goals are the lifeblood of any soccer team. While defenses do win championships, you do need a goal or two once in a while to win games and sometimes it's even nice to score more than once in a while.
The three goal-scoring heroes did in their own unique way and reminded us how precious that ability is at the highest levels of the game anywhere in the world, including this country.
Let's start with Mr. Lampard, who connected for the first hat-trick in NYC FC's two-year history in the 5-1 romp over the Colorado Rapids Saturday afternoon.
Those three goals gave the 38-year-old veteran an astounding eight goals in 688 minutes (11 games, eight starts), which comes out to an absurd 1.05 goals per game or a goal every 88 minutes. A goal every other match is considered pretty decent rate.
That's even better than Major League Soccer goal-scoring leader David Villa's rate of 0.61 goals per game on the strength of his 13 goals, which is pretty darn good on its own. In case you were wondering the closest player to Lampard's rate is the Columbus Crew's Ola Kamara, who has a 0.85 strike rate (10 goals in 1,059 minutes).
Now, he might not necessarily score the prettiest goals in the league -- his 18-yard shot for his second goal was pretty impressive -- but the former English international midfielder just has this internal GPS (sometimes you're born with it, sometimes it could be a little osmosis by experience, sometimes both) to find ways to score goals.
I don't care if the ball rebounds off a player's nose, knee or groin. If it goes into the net, that's fine with me.
Heck, I remember when Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese was filling the net for the MetroStars back in the day. Some critics claimed that he needed to be close to the net to score. But that's what a goal-scorer is all about, having the knack and the nose to figure out to be in the right place at the right time.
Savarese had it at many levels, from college (Long Island University) to the pros (the aforementioned MetroStars) and internationally (for the Venezuelan national team).
And speaking of the Cosmos, that brings us to Mr. Mkosana.
He had a hand, or rather a foot, in all three of New York's goals in the 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico FC Saturday night. Mkosana's cross was turned into an own goal. He set up the Cosmos' second goal the more conventional way and then put the finishing touches of the game with a goal in second-half stoppage time.
After being the forgotten man in the 10-game spring season, Mkosana's success in the opening seven matches of the North American Soccer League fall season has been nothing short of remarkable.
To appreciate his recent success, we have to take a look at Mkosana's spring numbers. He made seven cameo appearances for a total of 65 minutes in those 10 games; all together, he did not play a full game.
Since given an opportunity to play regularly, the former Dartmouth College standout has been on fire, almost as hot as the weather. Mkosana, 28, has played with so much energy and so much desire since the beginning of July and has not disappointed, scoring four goals and adding three assists in his 474 minutes during the fall season.
That translates to a goal every 119 minutes, perhaps not as impressive as Lampard's rate, but certainly very good enough for most forwards.
Of course, the real test of time is whether Mkosana can keep this up during the rest of the season. Like most strikers, he probably will go through some dry spells.
Just ask Mr. Wright-Phillips about that. When he joined the Red Bulls in 2013, he could not find the back of the net, let alone the ocean, when he attempted shots during the regular season.
No one saw his amazing 2014 season and assault on opposing goalkeepers coming. BWP struck for a club-record 27 goals in one of the greatest seasons by an MLS striker. He production tied a league record also held by Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski.
While he set the bar ridiculously high for himself, the English forward followed it up with an excellent season in 2015, striking 17 times.
This year he has a dozen goals as August dawns and No. 12 could not have been timed any better.
Wright-Phillips, 31, is hardly a cliché, but he lived one of soccer's enduring ones in the Red Bulls' 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire Sunday night. We have all heard the story about watching out for the strikers who have been invisible for 89 minutes.
Guess what? BWP slotted home a Connor Lade cross for the dramatic goal that salvaged a road point for the Red Bulls – in the 90th minute.
That score set a Red Bulls’ record for the most goals in all competitions, with 63.
Quite appropriately, he moved past another storied goal-getter, the great Juan Pablo Angel, who did damage for Atletico Nacional and River Plate in his native Argentina before duplicating that success with Aston Villa in England and finally with the Red Bulls.
Wright-Phillips is a sniper.
Sometimes he needs several goals to score, sometimes only one. In case you were wondering, Wright-Phillips is scoring at a 0.58 rate or a goal every 158 minutes.
Any striker -- or midfielder -- worth his or her salt, will miss more than they will hit and celebrate goals. They have to be like ducks, so the water just slips off their backs. They also need to get amnesia quite rapidly because the next goal-scoring opportunity could be seconds away.
There's no time to mope or feel sorry for yourself.
After this past weekend, Lampard, Mkosana and BWP are feeling pretty good about themselves.
And knowing their personalities and work ethic, they will feel pretty hungry for some more goals come their next match.