Ola Kamara Celebrating
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Sirk's Noteblog: Amazing hat trick facts

If you attended the May 28th Crew SC victory over Real Salt Lake, you saw more than just a 4-3 thriller. You saw a piece of Black & Gold history that was so astounding, it has consumed me ever since. Ola Kamara recorded the first Crew SC hat trick since September 18, 2004, when Edson Buddle erupted for four goals against the MetroStars. Wil Trapp was an 11-year-old Crew fan back then. Ditto for Ben Swanson, except he was seven. Seeing as they were both in the Crew SC midfield last Wednesday, that’s a long time ago. My brain had questions. Lots and lots of questions.
 
Through hours of my own personal research, plus the invaluable assistance of the ever-helpful Rick Lawes at MLS HQ and the fine work of Elias Sports Bureau, I now have answers. Lots and lots of answers.
 
So let’s tolerate me going into full Mr. Numbers Nerd mode and delve into amazing Crew SC hat trick facts, shall we?
 
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When Edson Buddle scored those four goals against the MetroStars, it ended a Crew SC hat trick drought that lasted two whole weeks. 14 days earlier, Ross Paule scored all three goals as Columbus beat the LA Galaxy 3-1. A 1-0 win at San Jose the next weekend put Crew SC’s hat-trick-free streak at one game before Buddle scored four.
 
With a one game hat-trick-less streak preceding Buddle’s four-goal game, who could have ever imagined that it would be followed by a 370-game hat-trick-less streak? A 14-day hat trick drought followed by a 4,270-day hat trick drought? The lopsided disparity on either side of Buddle is astounding.
 
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I asked Lawes if going 370 regular season games without a hat trick was the MLS record. According to Elias, the answer is a resounding yes. The second-longest drought belongs to the oft-hapless hosers at Toronto FC, who had 273 hat-trick-less games from their inception in 2007 until Sebastian Giovinco scored three first half goals at Yankee Stadium against New York City on July 12, 2015.
 
So second place is 97 games back of Crew SC’s record. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders, the worst baseball team in history, finished 84 games back of first place. The gap between the Crew SC hat trick drought and the second-place entry is larger than the gap between the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the pennant. Yowzers.
 
So who’s the next potential challenger? It turns out that on Wednesday, by virtue of holding every Philadelphia Union player to fewer than three goals, the Black & Gold helped along their nearest pursuer. Wednesday’s game was Philly’s 213th consecutive game without a hat trick. Per Elias, Sebastien Le Toux scored three goals in the club’s second-ever game on April 10, 2010, and the Union haven’t had one since.
 
In terms of calendar days, the New England Revolution are tied with Philadelphia. They got a hat trick from Zack Schilawski, also on April 10, 2010, but their streak is only 211 games because of schedule variances.
 
So for now, it’s a neck and neck horse race between the Union and Revs. They both have a long way to go.
 
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Speaking of Schilawski, let this chart blow your mind.
 
STATS AFTER 9/18/2004 AND BEFORE 5/28/2016
 
 
MLS GAMES
MLS GOALS
MLS HAT TRICKS
Zack Schilawski (NE)
50
6
1
Birahim Diop (KC)
32
5
1
David Estrada (SEA/DC)
50
5
1
Columbus Crew SC
370
492
Zip. Zero. Zilch.
 
That’s a cherry-picked head-scratching sampling of three out of the 76 hat tricks recorded in MLS between Crew SC hat tricks. The first hat trick after Buddle belonged to the MetroStars’ Amado Guevara, vs. Colorado, on April 30, 2005. The 76th Crew SC-free hat trick occurred just hours before Ola Kamara broke the spell. The Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips recorded the fastest MLS hat trick from the start of the game when he scored three goals by the 27th minute against Toronto earlier on May 28, 2016.
 
According to Elias, it was BWP’s fourth hat trick during Crew SC’s drought, tying him with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski and LA’s Robbie Keane for the most during that time period. Team-wise, the LA Galaxy recorded 10 hat tricks during that time, leading MLS. Only New York City FC and the Portland Timbers failed to produce a hat trick hero as Columbus awaited another one of their own. Of course, neither of those teams were even in MLS for most the Black & Gold’s drought.
 
But maybe hat tricks are overrated. During the drought period, Columbus clinched three Supporters’ Shields and an MLS Cup title. In retrospect, they missed the opportunity to sell t-shirts that said, “Hardware, not hat tricks.”
 
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I don’t know the origin of the term “brace” as it relates to scoring two goals, but I know for sure that for nearly a dozen years in Crewville, it didn’t mean, “Brace yourself! This guy has two goals and is about to get a hat trick!”
 
Digging through the box scores, I found that 21 different players recorded 48 braces during the Crew SC hat trick drought. The first belonged to Jeff Cunningham in a 3-3 tie vs. Chicago on October 2, 2004, just two weeks after Buddle’s four-goal game. The last in the string was the infamous double-brace on May 7, 2016, as Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain each scored two goals in a 4-4 draw vs. Montreal. And, well, we all know how that game brought the concept of a Black & Gold hat trick to the forefront.
 
Crew SC has had some really good teams during the drought period. In addition to the trophies mentioned earlier, they also advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final in 2010 and the MLS Cup final in 2015. And there have certainly been some offensively-gifted players over those dozen years. Here’s a breakdown of braces by the number of times a player achieved it.
 
BRACES DURING THE HAT TRICK DROUGHT
 
Seven:
Kei Kamara
 
Six:
Federico Higuain
 
Four:
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Andres Mendoza
 
Three:
Jairo Arrieta, Edson Buddle, Ethan Finlay, Robbie Rogers
 
Two:
Bernardo Anor, Jason Garey
 
One:
Knox Cameron, Jeff Cunningham, Eddie Gaven, Frankie Hejduk, Andy Herron, Steven Lenhart, Justin Meram, Alejandro Moreno, Emilio Renteria, Aaron Schoenfeld, John Wolyniec
 
Ola Kamara added his name to that list in the 64th minute on May 28, 2016. In the 74th minute, he then removed it by joining Stern John (five times, plus another one in the 1999 playoffs), Buddle (9/18/04), Paule (9/4/04), Dante Washington (6/16/01) and Brian Maisonneuve (9/7/96) in Crew SC’s all-time hat trick club.
 
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Team-wise, the 2015 Eastern Conference champions led the way with nine unrequited braces. Kei Kamara had six and Ethan Finlay had three. The 2005 and 2012 teams were next with six unrequited braces.
 
On the flip side, the last-place 2006 team never so much as tantalized the prospect of a hat trick, with its roster producing zero braces. Producing only one brace was the 2010 team, with Steven Lenhart scoring both goals in a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on August 5 of that year.
 
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Another thing that blew my mind when Ola recorded his hat trick was that those three goals were his first three tallies in MLS. I knew Didier Drogba did the same thing for Montreal last year, so I asked Lawes if they were the only two players to accomplish that feat. Turns out, far from it. And amazingly enough, Ola wasn’t even the first to do it for Columbus! I had forgotten that the Trinidad & Tobago hat trick machine known as Stern John opened his Black & Gold account that way.
 
Per the Elias data, here are the six players who scored their first three MLS goals as part of a hat trick:
 
1. Stern John (CLB) on April 18, 1998 vs Miami
2. Zack Schilawski (NE) on April 10, 2010 vs Toronto
3. David Estrada (SEA) on March 17, 2012 vs Toronto
4. Harrison Shipp (CHI) on May 10, 2014, at New York
5. Didier Drogba (MTL) on September 5, 2015 vs Chicago
6. Ola Kamara (CLB) on May 28, 2016 vs Salt Lake
 
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My brain didn’t stop there, of course. Ola’s hat trick took place in just his sixth appearance for Columbus. I knew Drogba did it even more quickly, and I remembered that Steve Rammel scored a hat trick for D.C. United against Columbus early in the 1996 season, which I looked up and found was in his fifth appearance. But I had to ask Lawes if there were others. There were.
 
According to the Elias data, here are the seven players that have recorded a hat trick within their first half-dozen MLS appearances.
 
Second appearance:
Didier Drogba (MTL), 9/5/15, vs Chicago
 
Third appearance:
Zack Schilawski (NE), 4/10/10, vs Toronto
 
Fifth appearance:
Steve Rammel (DC), 5/15/96, vs Columbus
Stern John (CLB), 4/18/98, vs Miami
 
Sixth appearance:
Giovanni Savarese (NY), 5/16/96, vs Colorado
Blaise Nkufo (SEA), 9/18/10, at Columbus
Ola Kamara (CLB), 5/28/16, vs Salt Lake
 
Crazy that Columbus has been involved in four of those seven games.  Also of note, at the club level, the previously mentioned Le Toux hat trick for Philadelphia on April 10, 2010, was comprised of his first three Union goals and came in his second appearance for the club, so you could add him to both of those lists if you switched it from the MLS level to the club level.
 
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Since Ola scored in the next game at Philadelphia, I dug through the box scores one last time to see if any other Crew SC players had followed up with a hat trick with a goal in the next game. Only one other Crew SC player had, and it should come as no surprise that it was Stern John. And that he had done it twice. And that one of those two times was a brace. (And he had a brace the game after THAT and a single goal the game after THAT.)
 
But if you have done something that only Stern John had accomplished in Crew SC history, that’s really something.
 
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Well, I guess this concludes the “Amazing Hat Trick Facts” edition of Mr. Numbers Nerd. My curiosity has been sated. My mind is now at peace. Congratulations to Ola Kamara for bagging a hat trick that has a very interesting place in Crew SC history. Also, once again, a huge thank you to Rick Lawes, who endured the question-filled nightmare of my oft-told joke that if I had query access to the Elias Sports Bureau database, I would never leave the house(Baseball-Reference.com is bad enough!).
 
And here’s hoping that it’s not 369 more games without a Crew SC hat trick. Well, unless that “Hardware, not hat tricks” t-shirt idea regains major statistical relevance.
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