The term “milestone” gets passed around like a collection plate when it comes to pro sports. Every week it seems as if some player has reached some new massive number in the stats or some team has surpassed a previous high. As such, it’s often hard to know what the big deals are in our game.
Jeff Cunningham reaching career goal No. 134? A big deal. Kevin Hartman crossing 100 career shutouts on top of an MLS record 169 victories? Huge deal – those might never be surpassed.
When these benchmarks are approached, it’s worth pointing out the really big ones. As such, there are a few this week that say a lot about the longevity and prolific achievements of some of the bigger personalities in our league.
Here are five such milestones — granted, with a bit of a West Coast bias attached to them — that are going on during a busy week in Major League Soccer.
Century mark for Cameron. Quietly on Wednesday night in Columbus, Geoff Cameron made his 100th start in all competitions for the Houston Dynamo, making him the second-youngest to reach that threshold in Houston, behind Ricardo Clark in 2009.
What’s most interesting is that Cameron started the game at his 2009 position of center back, his second start there this season and adding plenty more fuel to the debate over where he’s best suited: central defense or center midfield?
Of course, Cameron also served in the ball for Calen Carr’s late equalizer from the right wing after Dominic Kinnear pushed him into midfield in a 3-5-2 formation. Nothing like a little healthy debate.
Bruce is boss. It’s beyond dispute that Bruce Arena is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the American game: two MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, a US Open Cup, two MLS Coach of the Year awards, two CONCACAF Gold Cups, a quarterfinal finish at the 2002 World Cup and four NCAA Championships.
With a win over the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, Arena can also move past his US national team successor Bob Bradley into second place on the list of all-time coaching wins in MLS. His 125th career victory will put him second only to Sigi Schmid’s 152 and counting.
That may not seem like such a big deal at first — after all, Arena should be among the all-time leaders, right? But consider that Bruce Almighty also took a little, um, hiatus from MLS to coach the USMNT for eight years. That’s literally half of the league’s existence in which Arena was busy in the most prestigious role there is for an American coach. That’s truly remarkable.
No average Joe. It’ll be another achievement at the Home Depot Center on Saturday with another MLS lifer. Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon, assuming he starts, will become the 16th player to join the prestigious “300 Club” in MLS — guys who have appeared in more than 300 games over their career.
Cannon, who’s in his 13th year as a pro, will join a club that includes guys like Steve Ralston and Jaime Moreno. And along with Hartman, Cunningham, Pablo Mastroeni and Tyrone Marshall, he’ll become only the fifth active player to carry a 300 card.
The 36-year-old Cannon has always been a fun guy to cover — to say “he’s never at a loss for words” is to do the man a great injustice — and is one of the better goalkeeping talents in league history. We’ll conveniently omit his mercifully brief bleach-blond phase here.
Hometown hero, hometown legend. Ronald Cerritos’ franchise record of 61 career goals for the San Jose Earthquakes is probably safe for several more years. But Quakes fans are dying for someone to overtake No. 2 on the list. That honor belongs to one Landon Donovan, whose 32 goals through 87 games has stood since San Jose’s favorite target of scorn last donned a Quakes jersey six seasons ago.
But here comes Chris Wondolowski to the rescue. If the reigning Golden Boot Winner scores a goal Saturday in Houston, that will pull him even with Donovan; the following strike will put the Bay Area native into second place all by himself.
Talk about carving out a legacy — Quakes fans couldn’t ask for a better scenario to take the honor back from a guy for whom they built a piñata in his honor.
Even Steven ... er, Jason. No one’s expecting Real Salt Lake to beat Sporting Kansas City by a four-goal margin on Saturday (though they did just that to San Jose in July). But assuming they do, RSL will, for the first time in franchise history, break even in total goal differential — they’re currently at 271 goals scored in league play vs. 275 against.
Forget for a minute how good they’ve been in the Jason Kreis Era (at plus-55 since he assumed the job). RSL’s minus-35 differential in their inaugural 2005 season is the second-worst mark in league history, and they bottomed out at a total minus-59 before Kreis took over in May of 2007.
Besides that 2009 MLS Cup and their run to the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League final, this inevitable break-even point stands as one of the biggest symbols of the colossal culture change in the Wasatch.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. “The Throw-In” appears every Thursday.