The 5 MLS snipers you want chasing your game-winning goal
The art of scoring big goals in the closing minutes is among the most coveted in soccer, and although the honor can and does fall to virtually anyone on the field, there are some players, usually strikers, who are especially adept in the most dramatic moments.
Landon Donovan was an ace at it -- he scored a record 10 stoppage-time goals -- and so was Taylor Twellman, but they're two of MLS' most prolific scorers. They're supposed to score late winners. For a true artisan, consider Alan Gordon. His knack for netting important strikes in the dying minutes of matches, almost all of them headers, is legendary.
There are some recent practitioners that have impressed, perhaps none more so than Tosaint Ricketts, who last week tallied late winners at Columbus and against Minnesota as Toronto FC extended its winning streak to six games, all in the span of just 22 days.
When you need a late goal, here are five players -- two of them starters, three of them weapons off the bench -- you want on the field.
Is the Spanish superstar the best player in MLS' 21-plus seasons? Sebastian Giovinco might have something to say about that, and perhaps Robbie Keane, too, but the evidence is convincing, and New York City FC's emergence last year has a lot to do with him.
Villa has been an immaculate goalscorer, and he's particularly pesky when things matter most. He has scored five goals in stoppage since joining NYCFC in 2015 and, most impressively, has netted six goals that gave his team the lead or pulled it even from the 75th minute on. In the last five seasons, only five players have done so more often, and the top mark in that time in eight. Give David Villa five years, it will be in double digits, for sure.
Spain's all-time scoring leader netted three late winners his first season in the league and last year tallied two late tying goals and another to send NYC ahead. He also assisted on go-ahead goals twice in stoppage. He struck in the 90th last month to ensure victory over Philadelphia.
Toronto FC has a lot of late-game heroes -- there's Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, of course -- but the well-traveled Canadian forward has become the Reds' not-so-secret end-of-game weapon.
Ricketts has scored vital goals since joining Toronto FC last summer, but he's virtually unstoppable at the moment. The Reds have a six-point lead in the Supporters' Shield race, and his sense for the dramatic has played a huge part. He scored two late goals off the bench last Wednesday to beat the Crew, 2-1, then headed home Altidore's cross in the 77th minute Saturday in a 3-2 triumph over Minnesota United.
TFC faithful know his value well. He tallied 12 minutes after coming off the bench to lift the Reds past Real Salt Lake just two weeks after arriving, provided an October draw at archrival Montreal with an 86th-minute finish, then came up big twice in the run to the MLS Cup final. His stoppage-time goal provided a two-goal cushion heading into the second leg of the Eastern semifinals against NYCFC, and his strike in overtime, just two minutes after Benoit Cheyrou fired Toronto ahead, shut down Montreal in the second leg of the greatest of conference finals.