A Helping Hand: Part Two (Individual Assist Leaders)
Now, let's take a look at the top individual seasons when it comes to assists in MLS. But before I do that, there are two things I would like to mention first.
1) In order to get the data on secondary assists, I went through each match report on MLSnet. There were no lists of secondary assists, other than the league leaders. The "league stats" pages for 1996-2002 have leaders in assists, primary assists, and secondary assists, while the "team stats" and individual player pages just have assists. In just looking at the leaders for each season, there are a number of differences from the data I have and what MLSnet says. Maybe they recorded it wrong originally and went back and changed it. Who knows, but for the list of primary assist leaders below, I used what the MLSnet stats said, except for 2003-5 where they didn't have that data.
2) On Bigsoccer, Kenn Tomasch supplied some info from the "1998 MLS Statistical Manual." It's a laundry list of ridiculous items, including these:
Example 3 - Attacker “A” shoots and the ball is blocked but not controlled by the opposing goalkeeper. Attacker “B” gains possession of the loose ball and passes to attacker “C” who scores. Score the play as a goal for “C” and assists for “A” and “B”. NOTE: Attacker “A” should also receive credit for a shot, with the result being a save.
Example 4 - Attacker “A” hits a 50-yard pass from his defensive third to attacker “B” who collects the ball at midfield and dribbles into the corner of the field. Attacker “B” then crosses to attacker “C” who scores. Score the play as a goal for “C” and give assists to “B” and “A” because possession was never broken even through perhaps 30 to 60 seconds elapsed between the first pass by “A” and the goal by “C”.
There's also something about a shot hitting the goalpost and "possession never being broken," so of course assists are ok on that too. Just ridiculous stuff, all coming straight from MLS. That's nothing though, compared to this paragraph:
NOTE: There is not a distinction between passes that did exhibit a high degree of skill, vision and/or accuracy and passes that did not: CONSECUTIVE POSSESSION is now the rule.
That, my friends, is why MLS needs to go back and revise the historical records. While it would be very hard to review every single assist, it would be very easy to just eliminate the secondary assist altogether. See yesterday's post if you need more reasons why. 50 years from now, the overuse of secondary assists and the shootout win/losses will look really stupid and make it impossible to compare the early years to the (then) current ones. They're going to have to change it eventually, so why not just do it now? Otherwise you have some unattainable and unfair records, and that's no good. It's not like Cy Young in baseball with 500 wins, where the game changed dramatically.
For fun, here's how the top single season assist marks would be affected if secondary assists were dropped:
Top Single Season Assist Totals
Top Single Season PRIMARY Assist Totals
Big changes here. There's still a bias for the older guys because of the strange guidelines explained above, but those years did have higher scoring. Plus, unless I can go back and look at every assist, this is the best "improvement" we can do for now. Getting double digits in assists should be a huge accomplishment, and it is now in today's MLS.
There are 22 seasons of 15 assists or more; only three of them are legitimate. For comparison, there are only 26 "real" double digit assist seasons. As for the top spot, Valderrama only loses five secondary assists and still comes in with a huge 21. I know he had a great year, but considering the differences in the number of assists given out in 2000, you have to wonder how many 1996 Etcheverry would've had in that year. In yesterday's post, you saw how the 1996 data was normal until they started messing with it the next season. So I would have to say that 1996 Etcheverry's performance is probably equal to 2000 Valderrama.