MLS Player Stats for the 2020 Season – Most Shots, Assists, Tackles, and More

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| December 20, 2020 4:24 am PDT
The 2020 MLS Season in Numbers

With the 2020 season in the books, let’s take a look at the MLS stat leaders.

We all know that LAFC’s Diego Rossi won the Golden Boot, while Alejandro Pozuelo was named MVP. But who kept the most shutouts? Who was the top tackler? And who received the most red cards?

In this post, I look at the 2020 MLS season by the numbers, covering a wide range of attacking, defending, goalkeeping, and disciplinary stats.

Before we get started, it is worth noting that all the stats in this post relate to the regular season only. This excludes the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stages and the playoffs.

Right, let’s get stuck into the player stats for the 2020 MLS season.

MLS Attacking Stats for 2020

In this section, I take a look at three key attacking statistics for the 2020 MLS season – goals, assists, and shots.

Goals

  • Diego Rossi – LAFC; (14)
  • Robert Beric – Chicago Fire, Gyasi Zardes – Columbus Crew, Raul Ruidiaz – Seattle Sounders; (12)
  • Cristian Pavon – LA Galaxy, Chris Mueller – Orlando City, Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders; (10)

Diego Rossi clinched the 2020 MLS Golden Boot, finishing two goals clear of his nearest challengers – Robert Beric, Gyasi Zardes, and Raul Ruidiaz.

Cristian Pavon, Chris Mueller, and Jordan Morris all racked up ten regular-season goals, while Kevin Molino (Minnesota United), Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), and Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) each scored nine.

But who were the most efficient goalscorers in the 2020 MLS season? The table below shows the players with the best goals per 90 minutes average in the league.

BEST GOALS PER 90 MINUTES AVERAGE – 2020 MLS SEASON
PLAYER GOALS MINUTES GOALS PER 90 MINS
Ayo Akinola 9 1,063 0.76
Raul Ruidiaz 12 1,428 0.76
Diego Rossi 14 1,698 0.74
Jeremy Ebobisse 8 1,062 0.68
Bradley Wright-Phillips 8 1,077 0.67

As you can see, Akinola played 365 minutes – just over six hours – less than Ruidiaz last term, yet the 20-year-old still managed to finish the regular season with the same goals/90 average as the Seattle star.

Top scorer Rossi played the most minutes of all the players in the top five, with his 14 goals giving him an average of 0.74 goals per 90 minutes.

Jeremy Ebobisse and Bradley Wright-Phillips only netted eight regular-season goals in 2020, yet their efficiency sees them break into the top five, despite playing far fewer minutes than many of their rivals.

Assists

  • Alejandro Pozuelo – Toronto FC (9)
  • Darwin Quintero – Houston Dynamo, Pedro Santos – Columbus Crew, Djordje Mihailovic – Chicago Fire, Cristian Espinoza – San Jose Earthquakes, Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders (7)
  • Kacper Przybylko – Philadelphia Union, Brian Rodrigues – LAFC, Nicolas Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders, Emanuel Reynoso – Minnesota United, Chris Mueller – Orlando City (6)

The MLS assist leaderboard was hugely competitive in 2020. Five players notched up seven assists, with a further five notching up six. But one man stood out on his own at the top.

Alejandro Pozuelo kicked off his campaign by recording five assists in the opening two games at the MLS is Back Tournament – two against DC United and three against Montreal Impact.

The Toronto talisman then went on to provide three assists in three separate matches against Vancouver Whitecaps, before adding another against Columbus.

Having bagged nine goals and nine assists, the Spaniard was awarded the Landon Donovan MVP Award, as well as being named in the MLS Best XI for the second year in a row.

Alejandro Pozuelo

Shots

  • Valentin Castellano – New York City (74)
  • Diego Rossi – LAFC (71)
  • Gustavo Bou – New England Revolution (63)
  • Robert Beric – Chicago Fire (60)
  • Cristian Pavon – LA Galaxy (60)

Argentine forward Valentin Castellano produced the most shots during the 2020 MLS season. Unsurprisingly, the NYC man topped the shots/90 chart, too, registering an average of 4.96 shots per 90 minutes.

As expected, top scorer Rossi is also high up on the list, ahead of Gustavo Bou, Robert Beric, and Cristian Pavon.

Sure, shooting at will is all well and good. But shots count for nothing unless they hit the target, right? With that in mind, let’s see what percentage of the leading shot-takers’ attempts were actually on target last season.

BEST SHOTS ON TARGET RATIO – 2020 MLS SEASON
PLAYER TOTAL SHOTS SHOTS ON TARGET %
Diego Rossi 71 34 48%
Robert Beric 60 27 45%
Valentin Castellanos 74 31 42%
Cristian Pavon 60 22 37%
Gustavo Bou 63 21 33%

The table clearly shows that Rossi was the least wasteful forward in MLS the last term, with 48% of his shots hitting the target. Funnily enough, he won the Golden Boot.

Beric was also very economical throughout 2020, although Castellanos – the top shot-taker – only managed to get 42% of his 74 attempts on target.

However, shots don’t always turn into goals. Castellanos only scored six goals in 22 regular-season appearances last term. Pavon had 60 shots in the same number of games, yet he managed to score ten goals.

Defending Stats for the 2020 MLS Season

Let’s see which players made the most tackles, blocks, interceptions, and clearances in MLS in 2020.

Tackles

  • Judson – San Jose Earthquakes (97)
  • Artur – Columbus Crew (76)
  • Thiago Santos – FC Dallas (68)
  • Frankie Amaya – FC Cincinnati (63)
  • Ronald Matarrita – New York City (63)

San Jose’s Judson attempted far more tackles than any other player in MLS last season. The combative midfielder helped the Quakes qualify for the playoffs, although they fell at the first postseason hurdle, losing to Sporting Kansas City on penalties.

Not only did Artur attempt the second-most tackles in 2020, but he also contributed three goals and two assists on his way to securing the MLS Cup with Columbus.

Interestingly, the top three tacklers from last term are all Brazilian. Defensive midfielder Thiago Santos played a starring role for Dallas, getting his side to the conference semi-finals.

Judson may have attempted the most tackles, but was he the most economical tackler?

BEST TACKLES WON RATIO – 2020 MLS SEASON
PLAYER TOTAL TACKLES TACKLES WON %
Thiago Santos 68 48 70%
Franckie Amaya 63 44 70%
Artur 76 51 67%
Judson 97 64 66%
Ronald Matarrita 63 36 57%

As it turns out, Santos and Amaya actually finished the regular season with the joint-best tackles/tackles won ratio, winning 70% of their tackles.

But given that Judson attempted 34 more tackles than Amaya and 29 more than Santos, the San Jose midfielder’s ratio of 66% is still highly commendable.

Blocks

  • Kyle Duncan – New York Red Bulls (70)
  • Ali Adnan – Vancouver Whitecaps (52)
  • Diego Chara – Portland Timbers (50)
  • Frederic Brilliant – DC United (49)
  • Alexander Ring – New York City (48)

Young right-back Kyle Duncan enjoyed a hugely successful 2020 campaign. The Red Bulls star featured in every single game for the New York club last term, making 18 more blocks than his nearest challenger – Ali Adnan.

In fact, the rest of the top five are only separated by four blocks. It is hardly surprising that USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter recently handed Duncan his first senior international cap.

Interceptions

  • Francisco Calvo – Chicago Fire (38)
  • Yeimar Gomez Andrade – Seattle Sounders (30)
  • Aaron Herrera – Real Salt Lake (28)
  • Eryk Williamson – Portland Timbers (25)
  • Harrison Afful – Columbus Crew (24)

Francisco Calvo made more interceptions than anyone else in MLS last season. However, the Chicago captain was unable to prevent his side from finishing outside of the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Harrison Afful guided Columbus all the way to MLS Cup glory, while Yeimar Gomez Andrade led the Sounders to the final.

As well as finishing fourth on the interceptions chart, Eryk Williamson also managed to contribute three goals and four assists for the Crew. The 23-year-old is now widely regarded as one of the most complete midfielders in the country.

Meanwhile, Aaron Herrera was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy 2020 campaign for Real Salt Lake.

Clearances

  • Jonathan Mensah – Columbus Crew (149)
  • Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC (142)
  • Dave Romney – Nashville SC (128)
  • Maxime Chanot – New York City (126)
  • Henry Kessler – New England Revolution (124)

It is no coincidence that two Nashville players are among the top five clearance-makers. Indeed, Walker Zimmerman and Dave Romey forged a formidable center-back partnership last season.

Only two teams – Philadelphia and Columbus – conceded fewer goals than Nashville in 2020, with Zimmerman being named MLS Defender of the Year and Romney playing every minute of every game as the expansion team reached the conference semi-finals.

Columbus center-back Jonathan Mensah made it into the 2020 MLS Best XI, alongside Zimmerman. Of course, he also played a key role in the Crew’s MLS Cup triumph.

NYC’s Maxime Chanot and New England’s Henry Kessler complete the top five, with the latter enjoying a phenomenal debut MLS campaign with the Revs.

Jonathan Mensah

2020 MLS Goalkeeping Stats

Who kept the cleanest sheets last season? Who made the most saves in the 2020 MLS season? Here are the goalkeeping stats.

Clean Sheets

  • Joe Willis – Nashville SC (9)
  • Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union (8)
  • Eloy Room – Columbus Crew, Sean Johnson – New York City, Jimmy Maurer – FC Dallas, Tim Melia – Sporting Kansas City (7)

There is no denying that Joe Willis played a pivotal role in Nashville’s success in 2020. The former DC and Houston goalkeeper finished the regular season with nine clean sheets before adding a further two to his tally in the playoffs.

The 32-year-old didn’t miss a second of action for the expansion team last term, making his achievements even more remarkable.

Andre Blake managed to end up second in the shutout rankings, despite missing the final two matches of the regular season. After leading Philly to the Supporters’ Shield, the Jamaican also won Goalkeeper of the Year.

Eloy Room missed six regular-season matches yet still managed to claim seven clean sheets. He also missed two playoff matches, although he returned between the sticks for the Crew’s MLS Cup final triumph over Seattle.

Just imagine how many shutouts Room could have achieved if he played every game for Columbus!

Sean Johnson, Jimmy Maurer, and Tim Melia also secured seven clean sheets. Let’s not forget that Melia saved three PKs in the Wizard’s shootout victory over San Jose, too.

Saves

  • Marko Maric – Houston Dynamo (79)
  • Sean Johnson – New York City (76)
  • Clement Diop – Montreal Impact (73)
  • Matt Turner – New England Revolution (73)
  • Joe Willis – Nashville SC (70)

Houston ended up finishing rock bottom of the Western Conference, although Marko Maric cannot be blamed for that. In fact, the Dynamo shot-stopper made the most regular-season saves in 2020.

Interestingly, three teams in the West – San Jose, Vancouver, and the Galaxy – conceded more goals than Houston. With Maric in top form throughout the campaign, it’s clear that Tab Ramos’ forward line let the team down.

Sean Johnson was also a busy man last term. However, only three teams in the East – Philadelphia, Nashville, and Columbus – conceded fewer goals than New York City.

Montreal finished with the worst defensive record in the Eastern Conference, yet Clement Diop still managed to finish joint-third on the saves list. That says a lot about the Impact’s defenders.

As we know, New England and Nashville both boasted solid backlines throughout 2020, with Turner and Willis playing starring roles for their respective sides.

Marko Maric

Disciplinary Stats for the 2020 MLS Season

In this section, I cover three disciplinary stats for the 2020 MLS season – fouls, yellow cards, and red cards.

Fouls

  • Valentin Castellanos – New York City (55)
  • Diego Chara – Portland Timbers (46)
  • Judson – San Jose Earthquakes (44)
  • Artur – Columbus Crew (43)

It is worth pointing out that Valentin Castellanos is a forward, while the other three players on this list are defensive midfielders.

But Castellanos is clearly not your typical forward. The New York City man plays an aggressive game and likes to get up close and personal with opposing defenders – and that saw him commit the most fouls in MLS last season.

Diego Chara made the third-most blocks in 2020, so it’s not surprising to see him on the fouls leaderboard.

Judson and Artur finish first and second in the tackle charts. Having attempted so many tackles, it is only natural that they find themselves high up on the fouls list, too.

Yellow Cards

  • Andres Reyes – Inter Miami (11)
  • Alejandro Bedoya – Philadelphia Union (9)
  • Matias Vera – Houston Dynamo, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – Inter Miami, Thiago Sanots – FC Dallas, Franco Escobar – Atlanta United, Diego Chara – Portland Timbers (8)

Believe it or not – Andres Reyes only made 13 appearances for Inter Miami last season. Still, the hot-headed Colombian managed to pick up an unrivaled 11 yellow cards in 2020.

Philly captain Alejandro Bedoya played 21 regular-season matches last term, picking up two yellow cards less than Reyes.

Matis Vera, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Thiago Santos, Franco Escobar, and Diego Chara were each given eight yellow cards in 2020. Santos made the third-most tackles last season, while Chara made the second-most fouls.

Andres Reyes

Red Cards

  • Andres Reyes – Inter Miami, Julian Araujo – LA Galaxy (2)
  • 42 players received one red card in the 2020 MLS season

No shocks here!

You probably won’t be surprised to see Andres Reyes at the top of the red card list. He was sent off against Philly at the MLS is Back Tournament before seeing red on Decision Day against FC Cincinnati.

Julian Araujo was also sent off twice in 2020. The Galaxy right-back was shown two yellow cards against Colorado before being handed a straight red against Vancouver on the final day of the regular season.

In total, 42 other players were shown one red card.

The Wrap-Up

The 2020 MLS season was immense, wasn’t it?

From Philadelphia clinching the Supporters’ Shield to Columbus beating Seattle in the MLS Cup final, we were blessed with drama right up until the final whistle.

And I’m sure you’ll agree – it’s always interesting to look back on the statistics.

If you want to reminisce about the best bits from the last term, check out my post on the 10 standout moments from the 2020 MLS season.

The 2021 MLS season is set to kick off in March 2021. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with all the offseason action in our soccer blog.

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