LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has a lot of respect for former teammate Jeff Cunningham and the incredible goal total he has amassed over his career.
“I would say nothing short of incredible," said Kreis. "If you average his goals over the number of seasons he’s played, you get an impressive number."
Cunningham currently sits tied with Jaime Moreno at 132 goals for the most career goals in league history. Over a 13-year career – two years fewer than Moreno – that averages out to a shade more than 10 per season. He’ll have a chance to overtake the D.C. United icon on Saturday against Kreis’ RSL.
“It’s one thing for forwards to have a good year here, and a good year there," Kreis said, "but him doing it on a consistent basis and to average it up and it turns into the number he has – it’s just impressive, very, very impressive.”
In 2006, Cunningham joined Kreis in Salt Lake and the Jamaican striker went on to score a whopping 16 goals that season – good enough for Golden Boot honors. He also had 11 assists that year, making it arguably his best season in MLS until he recorded 17 goals and eight assists a year ago in Dallas.
The following year, however, changes occurred in Salt Lake. Kreis was elevated to the coaching position at the start of May, and by month’s end, Cunningham was sent packing off for Toronto in a trade for Alecko Eskandarian.
“For me, it had everything to do with the vision I had for the team," Kreis said of that swap. "He obviously was an extremely talented player, and still is. But we’ve always had the mind set here that it’s always about the team, and so we have had to sacrifice along the way a lot of talented players to build what we think is a successful team.
"So he was a player in the same mold – we had to sacrifice a very talented player in order to build the team in the way that we envisioned it.”
Cunningham will likely relish the opportunity for the last word on Saturday when his streaking FC Dallas team visits Rio Tinto Stadium.