When Dominic Oduro tapped-in the game winner in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Chivas USA, not only did he clinch a dramatic win and keep the team’s playoff hopes alive, he also brought to end a drought of dubious distinction.
It had been seven years and 27 days since a Fire player last hit double digits in regular season goals. The man was Damani Ralph, who bagged his 10th of 11 goals in a 1-1 draw at the LA Galaxy on August 21, 2004.
The seven-year drought was the longest to date for any team in Major League Soccer and the distinction is now held by the Fire’s Sunday opponents New England, who haven’t had a double-digit goal scorer since Taylor Twellman finished with 19 in 2007.
Oduro now joins an exclusive group of six Fire players that have bagged 10+ goals during the MLS regular season. See the breakdown of each below…
[inline_node:15999]Ante Razov – The first Fire player to hit the double-digit goal mark, Razov is the club’s all-time leading scorer (76) and holds the team’s all-time record in most offensive categories including Game-Winning Goals (23), Game-Winning Assists (15), Shots (617), Shots on Goal (312), Multi-Goal Games (16), Penalty Kick Goals (12), Hat Tricks (2), Playoff Goals (10) and Playoff Game-Winning Goals (3) just to name a few…
The 1998 season was a sign of things to come as the lethal striker would go on to grab double-digit goal totals in four more seasons: 18 in 2000, 14 in 1999, 2002-2003. With the way that quality strikers get grabbed up in MLS, there’s a halfway decent chance that his 76 regular season goals and 95 goals across all competitions for the club may never be broken…
[inline_node:16000]Damani Ralph – The only other player aside from Razov to have more than one double-digit season for the Fire, Ralph made the most of his relatively short time in Chicago as he scored 11 goals in both seasons (2003-04) for the Men in Red.
Ralph parlayed the 11 goals in 2003, all of which were from the run of play, into the league’s Rookie of the Year award and is the last Fire player to have won that distinction. The now-retired Jamaican international partnered with Razov to form the “Ra-Ra Boys” tandem up front, with the two combining for 40 of the team’s 89 regular season goals from 2003-04.
Two things that are the most impressive about Ralph’s 22 league goals: he only had one multi-goal game in his career, scoring a hat trick on June 5, 2004 vs. DC United and only two of the 22 came from penalty kicks.
[inline_node:15998]Eric Wynalda – Though he only spent one season with the Fire, Eric Wynalda hit for 10 goals with the Men in Red in what would be his MLS swansong season in 2001. Injuries often hampered the striker’s time in Major League Soccer as the former U.S. all-time leading goal scorer only once before hit for double digits during an MLS season (he bagged 10 with San Jose in 1996).
Following an early season trade from the New England Revolution, the fiery striker made his last season in MLS a great one, filling the void left by Razov while the club’s all-time leading scorer spent a brief time with Spanish Second Division side Racing de Ferrol in 2001.
In all, Wynalda led the team in 2001 with 10 goals in 21 regular season appearances and is among a small group of players to have scored in his debut for the club, a 33-minute cameo in the side’s 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on May 5, 2001. Of the 10 goals he scored, five came against the now defunct MLS club as Wynalda would go on to score braces in wins against the Mutiny on July 7 (3-2) and August 11 (3-1) of that year.
Despite playing less than a year with the club, Eric Wynalda became the first player to enter the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame wearing Fire colors when he was inducted to the Hall in 2004.
[inline_node:16007]Josh Wolff – Wolff’s eight goals in his 1998 rookie campaign quietly put him third behind Razov (10) and Roman Kosecki (9) on the team’s scoring chart that year. It is also of note that the South Carolina alum bagged 12 goals in 18 with the Nike U.S. Pro-40 (remember that?) the same year, putting him among the leading scorers in the A-League in 1998.
He followed up his impressive rookie season by bagging 10 goals in 1999, scoring two goals, including a 90th minute equalizer to give the Fire a 3-3 draw on August 22 at Dallas. Just two weeks on from that match, the then 22-year-old striker earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team cap in a 2-2 draw at Jamaica.
Overall, Wolff’s time with the Fire helped propel him to appearances in FIFA World Cups (2002, 2006), the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, time in the 2.Bundesliga with 1860 Munich (2006-08) and three more double-digit goal years all with Kansas City (2004-05, 2009).
[inline_node:16006]Dema Kovalenko - The only player on the list aside from Dominic Oduro to hit double-digits just once in his career, it’s easy to forget the danger in front of goal Kovalenko provided during his time with the Fire.
Known better for his physical play, the Ukrainian midfielder hit for 10 goals during the Fire’s dominant campaign in 2000, accounting for nearly 40% of the 26 goals he scored for the club from 1999-2002. The Indiana University product came just short of joining Razov and Ralph in finishing with back-to-back double-digit campaigns as he bagged eight more during 2001.
Dominic Oduro – Being run out of Houston one game into the 2011 MLS Regular Season has turned it pretty well for the MLS veteran striker. Oduro has been one of the key cogs in keeping the club in the 2011 MLS playoff picture, having provided winning goals in the side’s last three league victories.
None of the above 10-goal scorers saw their double-digit marker come in more dramatic fashion than the Ghanaian did Saturday as his 85th minute winner pushed the 10-man Fire past Chivas USA 3-2. If there was an award for Breakout Player of the Year in MLS, Oduro would probably win it hands down, at the very least the resurrection that has occurred with his career in Chicago this season should put him in the running for Comeback Player of the Year.
[inline_node:16015]Oduro has added to three-straight game winners in the league with two in the club’s run to the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, totaling 12 across all competitions this year.
Sitting just two goals back of MLS Golden Boot leader Thierry Henry, Oduro has humbly endeared himself to the club’s supporters through his hard work and quotes like this one:
“It’s all about helping my team make the playoffs,” he said Tuesday. “If it happens that I score a few goals to get my team there and it keeps me in the Golden Boot race I’d accept that. Right now it’s about the team for me, I’ll do whatever I can to get us in the postseason.”
Who came close?
Aside from the near misses by Kovalenko and Wolff listed above, four other players have come within two of the double-digit marker. The club's second all-time leading goal scorer Chris Rolfe twice did as he tallied eight in 2005 and nine in 2008 while Roman Kosecki (1998), Hristo Stoitchkov (2000) and Andy Herron (2006) all scored nine.
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.