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Bobby Rhine: Comparing two MLS greats

FRISCO, Texas — When FC Dallas face off against D.C. United on Saturday night, there will be plenty of storylines, but the subplot I’m most interested in is Jeff Cunningham’s chase of Jaime Moreno.

Moreno is, of course, the top goal scorer in Major League Soccer history. Cunningham is only five goals behind Moreno for second all-time.

With the two MLS icons set to do battle on the same field for the last time on Saturday night, I thought it would be appropriate to assess their marks in the history books.

Let’s start with Moreno. He’s scored 132 goals in MLS. He’s also the only player in MLS history to record more than 100 goals and 100 assists.

But what are his qualities as a player? Moreno is a great, clinical finisher. His ability to play with his back to the goal and include players into the attack is the best of any forward that has played in MLS. But I believe that he’s actually known to his teammates and opponents as more threatening as a linking player than a goal scorer, which seems odd to say about the leader in all-time MLS goals.

So how does Cunningham compare?

Cunningham has scored 127 goals in MLS. He burst onto the scene in 1998 as an explosive striker capable of scoring highlight reel goals, and you can still say that about him today. His scoring spree in the second half of the 2009 season for FC Dallas, during which he netted 16 goals in the last 14 games, was historic. That run earned Cunningham his second career Golden Boot award in his 12th season in MLS.

He is a different forward than Moreno. His explosiveness still opens up the necessary space to unleash shots from distance and the ability to run in behind a defense. He has improved his ability to hold the ball up as his career has progressed, but at the end of the day, he’s a guy who relies on creating separation from defenders so he can run.

I’ll give you one more stat and then let you debate among yourselves. Of Moreno’s 132 career goals, 43 have come off penalty kicks. Of Cunningham’s 127 goals, 18 have come from the penalty spot.

The one thing we can all agree on is that, come Saturday night in DC, we’ll get to watch two of the best attackers in MLS history do battle one more time.

You can follow Bobby Rhine's in-game commentary as well as behind-the-scenes analysis on Twitter @bobbyrhine.