Is it a milestone to record 10 assists in a single season? It is for the New York Red Bulls. For six consecutive seasons - from 2006 to 2011 - the team didn't have any players reach 10 assists in all competitions in a single season. Then Thierry Henry's role adjusted, he was provided with a target - Kenny Cooper in 2012; either or both Fabian Espindola and Tim Cahill in 2013; Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2014 - and having a player with a double-digit assist season became the norm for RBNY.
Not that is has ever really been "the norm" for this club. In 19 completed seasons, there has been no player achieving 10 or more assists in all competitions in a single season on seven occasions. There have been seven seasons in which just one player got to 10 or more assists: Thierry Henry in 2012 and 2013; Amado Guevara in 2004 and 2005; Andy Williams in 2002; Daniel Hernandez in 2001; Eduardo Hurtado in 1998.
So there have only been five seasons in the history of this club in which more than one player has registered 10 or more assists. One of those was last year, when Lloyd Sam got to 10, becoming the first player not named Thierry Henry (who set the club's single-season record for assists in 2014: 19) or Amado Guevara to reach double-digit assists in a single season since Mark Lisi in 2003.
As of this week, there is now a new name to add to the relatively small list of players to have have hit 10 assists in a single season for RBNY: Sacha Kljestan. This was his 10th in all competitions for the Red Bulls this season:
Well done, Sacha: the 15th player in the history of RBNY to record double-digit assists in a single season.
He may soon have company. In part because, one suspects, the league is more generous with handing out assists than it was in years past. And in part because the current system demands its front four carry the burden of scoring and creating relatively equally. And in part because the regular starting front four has been quite successful, both individually and as a unit.
Mike Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips (maligned last year as a one-dimensional player lucky to have Henry behind him to set up goals; anyone who seriously argued he wasn't at least a top-three candidate for MLS MVP last year should feel profound shame) each have nine assists in all competitions so far this year. If they both crack double-digits in the category, RBNY will have more than two players on 10 assists or more in one season for only the second time in club history (2000 was the first, and to date only, occasion; a team-record four players - Clint Mathis, Mark Chung, Adolfo Valencia, and Alex Comas).
Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty (six assists each), and Felipe Martins (five) are also more or less in range of 10 for the season.
Is it much of an achievement to have lots of players creating goals for a team? It's not in itself a surefire way to win games, but it does indicate your attack is hard to stop since its creating scoring from a healthy variety of sources (conversely, of course, if your team is getting most of its goals from one combination of players - it simply indicates that particular combination is hard to stop). Successfully shut down Kljestan in the final third, and there is still good reason to hope Grella, BWP, or Sam will make the necessary final pass for a goal. The only worthwhile measure of "better" is results, unless you enjoy watching your team lose so long as it remains faithful to your preferred style or tactics. But the quest for "better" is perhaps a little easier if your attack cannot be shut down by one or two players being absent or out of form.
One more thing. Here is the list of players to have tallied 10 or more assists for this club in their debut season: Tab Ramos, Roberto Donadoni, Eduardo Hurtado, Alex Comas, Adolfo Valencia, Clint Mathis, Andy Williams, and Amado Guevara. Not bad company, Sacha. Congratulations, and here's hoping you get close to the goal-creating (scoring) records of some of those players before your time at RBNY is over.