How do you define who the best goal-scorer is in MLS? Is it who can score the highest quality goals? Is it who can score the most goals over the course of a season? Is it who can score goals in the biggest games? Or is it something else? I don't know that there is a correct answer to that question, and to be clear, there is a lot that goes into what makes someone a great goal-scorer. That said, I am going to look at who is the best based on some statistics on the 2013 season thus far.
Some of the names we have heard being touted as being the best forward and/or goal-scorer in MLS this season include Robbie Keane, Camilo Sanvezzo, Mike Magee, Marco Di Vaio, and Alvaro Saborio. Obviously players like Thierry Henry and Chris Wondolowski are missing from my discussion, but I want to explore some of the top handful of forwards just for comparison sake.
Di Vaio and Magee lead all scorers with 17 goals and 15 goals respectively, and that is nothing to sneeze at, but based on the statistics, how efficient are they at scoring? There are various categories I am going to look at, all of which tell a different story. As for goals per shot, Di Vaio and Magee round out at 19% and 18% compared to the MLS leader, Keane, at 25%. Di Vaio scores .74 goals per 90 minutes played while Magee is scoring .65 goals every 90 minutes played. Sanvezzo scores on 15% of his shots and notches .71 goals per 90 minutes played. If you want to look at who has the most quality shots based on shots on goal, the leader of this group is Di Vaio at 51%. Over half of all the shots he takes are on frame. Behind him (once again, of this group) is Keane at 46%.
But here's where it gets interesting and where I make my case that Saborio could very well be the best scorer in MLS in 2013. Saborio has played by far the least minutes of all these forwards and less than the top 17 other top goal-scorers with just 1,000 played so far. To provide some perspective, Saborio has played about half the minutes that Di Vaio has with Sabo putting in 1,081 minutes of work compared to Di Vaio's 2,054.
Saborio leads MLS with .83 goals scored per ninety minutes played, .77 goals per game he features, and 56% of his goals per shot on goal. This says to me that Saborio is scoring when he plays, nearly a goal per game. That is in the realm of the top-scorers in the world (albeit different leagues reap varying levels of competition.) Going further, those stats also tell us that Sabo puts the ball where it needs to go when he has a clear chance to score.
If Saborio was not being continually called up to the Costa Rican National Team and did not have a few nagging injuries, the stats tell us that he should be leading the league in total goals scored and in efficiency when he has a great chance to score. In fairness, Keane has played only a handful more of games in MLS at 1,410 minutes. But, he trails Sabo with .77 goals per 90 minutes played.
In my opinion, the best forwards in MLS this year are Saborio, Keane, and Di Vaio. The order of those is players is still up for debate.