- The single-season and all-time goal marks in MLS history are on the verge of falling, while contrasting streaks out west have made for one Cascadia-heavy chase for the playoffs.
Records are made to be broken, and that's precisely what Week 25 in MLS reminded us.
Josef Martinez continued his remarkable season, tying the all-time single-season goal record with plenty of time to spare on a fantastic strike, which helped Atlanta United retake the lead in the tight quest for the Supporters' Shield in the process.
On the other end of the standings spectrum, Chris Wondolowski continued his improbable ascent toward MLS's all-time goal record, inching toward Landon Donovan's mark with another tally for the last-place San Jose Earthquakes, who will take any goal–and any point–it can during a trying campaign in Mikael Stahre's first season at the helm.
Here are the best, record-related and most notable moments from Week 25 in MLS:
I. Martinez ties single-season goal record
For Martinez, the barring-injury question was always a matter of when and not if. The Atlanta star will become MLS's single-season goal king, thrashing his way through a season of unprecedented efficiency and dominance in this league. Roy Lassiter, Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips all held a share of the title entering 2018, scoring 27 goals in their epic campaigns, but none will hold a candle to Martinez when his run is over.
With nine games to go, Martinez is now also at 27, averaging more than a goal per game in helping Atlanta to a league-best 51 points through 25 matches. Wondolowski and Wright-Phillips may be docked slightly given they required two more matches apiece, 32, to tie what Lassiter accomplished in 30. That Martinez has done it in five fewer matches than the original record-holder is nothing short of remarkable. His latest opened the scoring in a 3-1 win over Columbus, a goal on which he showed more than just the uncanny right-time, right-place knack that has resulted in many of his tallies.
He very nearly made it 28 and set the record on a second-half header, which rattled the crossbar.
That miss will hardly matter when all is said and done, though. The only downside for Martinez is that with Atlanta on the road for its next four games, it's highly doubtful he'll set the mark at home, but he's left the tens of thousands who turn out each match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with plenty to applaud.
II. Wondolowski inches toward all-time mark
Wondolowski won't hold a share of the single-season record for long, and he had a great outlook about the situation, telling MLSSoccer.com this week that “I think [Martinez is] going to end up smashing the record. I would much rather have that than just maybe him win by one or two. Because then you’re thinking about the ones you missed. If he’s going to score 33, 34, I have no problem losing that one!"
Wondolowski has the big-picture game to consider, anyway. He's now within four of Donovan's all-time regular season record of 145 after his opportunistic equalizer off a spilled save in San Jose's 1-1 draw vs. limping reigning champion Toronto FC.
His team might be the worst in the league right now, but Wondo is giving the Earthquakes faithful something to look forward to. A model of goal-scoring consistency since his first full season in San Jose, Wondo is on a streak of eight straight double-digit scoring seasons. Three more goals would make it nine, while four more would put him in rarified air.
III. Catch him if you can
Spoiler alert: They couldn't.
There was no stopping the weaving Philadelphia Union showman on this game-icing goal in an impressive 2-0 win over NYCFC.
V. Seattle surges by Zlatan-less LA; Puzzling Portland
The LA Galaxy, fighting a rash of key injuries, spared Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the turf in Seattle and then promptly got pounded 5-0. Zlatan had some eye-opening comments regarding the Galaxy's play following a draw vs. Colorado that felt like a loss, so perhaps it's for the better that he wasn't present for this one. The Galaxy are now teetering on the edge of a playoff place that Ibrahimovic said they don't deserve, sitting just two points clear of the surging Sounders, who are riding a team-record six-game winning streak and also hold two games in hand.
Meanwhile, southbound on I-5, the team the hadn't lost in four months has now dropped three straight in the course of seven days after Portland's 3-0 defeat at Sporting Kansas City followed losses to Vancouver and at D.C. The Timbers, like the Galaxy, are now perilously close to falling out of the playoff hunt after seemingly having a grasp on one of the six places. The teams on their heels? Cascadia rivals Seattle and Vancouver. Their next two games? Against the last two MLS Cup champions, Seattle and Toronto.
Portland has games in hand on its chief competitors, but there isn't much time for Giovanni Savarese's side to find a return to form before it really starts to sweat.
VI. Upon further review, the goal stands
A near-handball almost ruined this glorious way FC Dallas passed the time during a weather delay before dispatching Minnesota United 2-0.
VII. Happy birthday, from Johnny Russell
This is beautiful.
VIII. Veljko Paunovic is not enjoying himself
A standard question was met by an expletive-laden answer from the Chicago Fire coach, whose club has now lost eight in a row and was dealt a dagger on Daniel Lovitz's first-career MLS goal–a 91st-minute volley that gave Montreal a 2-1 win.
Paunovic's response: NSFW!
IX. Herstory in the TV booth
A huge shout to the Fox Sports 1 trio of Lisa Byington, Danielle Slaton and Katie Witham, who formed a rare all-female broadcasting team for a men's soccer match when they worked D.C. United's 2-0 win over the New England Revolution.
Here are the goal calls from the match–D.C. United's fourth win in five matches entering a showdown vs. the rival Red Bulls next Sunday:
X. How was this not a goal!?
There were four goals in the Whitecaps' 2-2 draw with the Red Bulls. This, somehow, was not one of them.
XI. RSL leaves it late. Really late.
We save the last for the latest, with Real Salt Lake's two stoppage-time goals from Albert Rusnak stunning the reeling Houston Dynamo. The second came in the 10th (tenth!) minute of stoppage time, tying the latest regular-season goal in league history (Kaka, Orlando City vs. Toronto FC, 2016).
VAR upheld the penalty on DaMarcus Beasley, who fouled Sebastian Saucedo (just 15 years his younger) in stoppage time ahead of the Rusnak spot-kick that sealed a gut-wrenching defeat for Houston. The Dynamo have now lost five straight, are winless in seven and the schedule isn't getting any easier. Two matches against Western Conference leader FC Dallas sandwich a road match at the Red Bulls, making for a long uphill climb for a side that was very much in the mix as late as a month ago.