Alexi Lalas MLS blog: Why unsung hero Jeff Cunningham is Major League Soccer's answer to Alan Shearer

Welcome to MirrorFootball's new MLS blog, brought to you in conjunction with ESPN. Every week USA legend Alexi Lalas will be on hand to bring you the latest news from the States, and you'll also be able to watch the week's best goals and highlights...

The transfer window is closed. Yay.

Now all the silliness can go away for a while and we can get back to what's real - the game.

In fact, today, let's talk about the essence of the game: the goal. As in goals scored. Because, on both sides of the pond, goals are dropping like airlifted medical supplies into a disaster zone.

Manchester United poured in an octet against Arsenal over there. While over here, Seattle splashed a sextet on Columbus.

It was a 6-2 blowout in front of 36,000 Sounders faithful, who were loving every minute of it.  Of course these things happen, and they're always fun to watch.

But while Sounders fans rightfully celebrated their side's thrashing of Columbus they also bore witness to a piece of MLS history.

In the 74th minute, Columbus striker Jeff Cunningham slotted home a penalty past Kasey Keller and became MLS's all-time leading goal-scorer with 134 goals.

Now you've probably never heard of Jeff Cunningham, have you? I'm not surprised. Because Cunningham is not a world-class player. He's never played in the World Cup and only made 14 appearances for the US national team.

His career has spanned 14 years and 5 different clubs and, like many strikers, he has often been an enigmatic and frustrating figure. He's been less than accommodating to the media and at times has irked teammates, coaches, and fans with his self-serving attitude on the field and in the locker room.

In short, he will never be as revered as Alan Shearer, his top-goalscoring counterpart in the EPL (or is it BPL, now? Hard to figure out).

Not that all of that diminishes Cunningham's accomplishment.

But regardless of any "issues," he has always done his job: score goals.

And he should be celebrated for that, for the historic number of goals he's scored, for his longevity and effectiveness. MLS history is still like a young red wine, but when you've got a good vintage, you revel in it.

Even as a former defender I'll admit that scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in soccer.  I live in awe of those who can do it consistently, especially in MLS, where parity by design makes it that much more difficult to maintain any kind of run.

And here's a guy who has done it more than anyone.

So while many of the fans in Seattle will remember the 6-2 victory for the Sounders, I hope a few of them will remember Cunningham's goal.

Until someone breaks Cunningham's MLS record - it will happen someday, of course - he is our goal king, our Shearer.

For this, he deserves our respect regardless of his personality or the fact that he never became a household name. He did something more important. He provided that quintessential footballing thing - the goal.

Alexi Lalas is a lead football analyst for ESPN - the live and exclusive broadcaster of Major League Soccer in the UK. ESPN and ESPN America are the home of major sports from the US, including NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL Monday Night Football, and NCAA US college sports. For details visit

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