Who will win the MLS 2023 Golden Boot? Bouanga, Acosta, Mukhtar, Cucho, White, Giakoumakis...
As the season comes to a dramatic end, we take a look at the top sharpshooters in the country and find out who is set to win the MLS 2023 Golden Boot award.
Decision Day 2023 is upon us, meaning the MLS campaign is set to come to an end after a delightful season full of drama, passion and free-flowing, fantastic football.
We’ve seen some world-class performances across the year, with plenty of players showing themselves to have levels of football we simply didn’t expect. MLS has grown massively across the world (thank you, Lionel) and the standard of play has never been higher.
In terms of goals, we have witnessed some stunning strikes, technical team-play and silky skills - but who is top of the pops? Which players can win the MLS 2023 Golden Boot award for the highest number of goals scored? We’ve been giving you plenty of updates throughout the season, but here’s who is in the running going into the final day...
5. Julián Carranza - 13 goals
In 5th place we have Julián Carranza of the Philadephia Union. The forward has done excellently well this season, only failing to score or assist 5 times in games when he has played less than 90 minutes. The 20-year-old has outscored his xG of 11.8 (all stats from FBREF) and also has 5 assists across the season.
Carranza is also incredibly useful in defensive moments, and is in the top 89th percentile or above for blocks, tackles and interceptions. However, he has to pick up his recent form if he wants to climb up the top scorers list, as the Argentine has only scored once in his last five.
4. Facundo Torres, Alan Pulido, Dániel Gazdag, Christian Benteke - 14 goals
Next on the list we’ve got a quartet of players, all on 14 goals. Alan Pulido, who spoke to AS USA last week, is the standout player on the list, having scored 14 from just 8.4 xG. The Sporting Kansas City forward missed the entirety of the 2022 campaign as he recovered from knee surgery, and has come back with a bang: in fact, he might just win MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
Gazdag, with 6 assists, is the highest provider of the four, which is normal considering his slightly withdrawn position on the pitch compared to the others, and the 27-year-old has once again shown his class within the division.
Facundo Torres has heavily outperformed his xG this season, and has his 14 goals from a total of just 10.2 xG. He also sits in the 84th percentile for progressive passes in MLS this season, which shows his creative side, popping off an average of 9.85 per 90 minutes.
Christian Benteke, DC United’s 32-year-old forward, has 14 goals this season as he continues to show he has an eye for the goal. The former Villa man also has 3 assists in the 2788 minutes he has played this season, and takes on average 3.42 shots per 90, as well as having a whopping 6.62 touches in the opponent’s penalty area, proving beyond doubt that he definitely has not lost his attacking touch.
3. Brian White, Hany Mukhtar, Cucho, Giorgos Giakoumakis - 15 goals
Of the players in joint-third with 15 goals, Giakoumakis is the one with the best goals-per-minute ratio, having played just 1706 across the season, putting him comfortably in the 98th percentile for non-penalty goals per 90 minutes in MLS.
Brian White, the only American to feature in this piece, has been in fine form for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and has met his xG of 15.4 this year. Hany Mukhtar looks set to loose his 2022 crown, but nevertheless has had a stellar season once again, affirming himself as one of the all-time top talents in the American game.
The trio of players share the bronze medal with Cucho, Columbus Crew’s Colombian, who has simply blitzed every attacking statistic in the league, as he sits at least in the 95th percentile for non-penalty xG, total shots, assists, expected assisted goals, shot creating actions, passes attempted, progressive passes, progressive carries, successful take-ons, touches in attacking penalty area and progressive passes received. Cucho can have the StatsNerd Award 2023.
2. Luciano Acosta - 16 goals
FC Cincinnati are the 2023 Supporters’ Shield champions, and a lot of their success is down to Luciano Acosta who, with 16 goals and 10 assists, is just about the most lethal player MLS has to offer. The Argentine has shone from start to finish, outperforming both his xG (12.6) and XAG (9.7), as well as being firmly in the 99th percentile in the league for shot creating actions, with a staggering 7.05 per 90 minutes! His incredible numbers do not stop there, as Acosta also has over 4 progressive carries per game and more than three successful take-ons per 90.
1. Denis Bouanga - 19 goals
Unless Luciano Acosta, against Atlanta United, scores over a hat-trick, it will be LAFC’s Denis Bouanga who takes home the 2023 MLS Golden Boot award. The forward has bagged a serious number of goals this season, with a massive tally of 19 for the MLS Cup holders. Bouanga’s numbers have been impressive all season long, but his lightning start to the campaign, in which he scored 10 goals in his first 12 games, perfectly set the tone for the year.
Wait, where is Lionel Messi?
The Argentina captain, believe it or not, has just 1 goal in MLS this season, having only featured 5 times in the domestic competition. In all competitions for The Herons, he has 11 goals in 13 games, which is more like it from Leo. He also tears the league apart in terms of general statistics, and is in the 95th percentile or higher in ten different categories: shots, assists, expected assists, shot creating actions, xG+xA total, passes attempted, pass completion, progressive passes, progressive carries and successful take-ons. He’s still got it.