There are a lot of ways to measure a goal-scorer’s contributions in soccer.
There’s total goals, where Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, with 26, is lapping the rest of MLS. Or game-winning ones, of which the Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has five in just 17 games.
In terms of sheer productivity, it would be hard to match Adama Diomande of the Los Angeles Football Club, who leads his team with nine scores in 10 games. Since making his first MLS appearance nine weeks ago, Diomande has averaged a goal every 77 minutes — and more than half his shots on target have wound up in the back of the net.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. It’s been hard work in every game,” said Diomande, who is unbeaten in seven starts with LAFC heading into Sunday’s road game with the New York Red Bulls. “That’s been my mindset.”
He had the franchise’s first hat trick in his third start, led the team in goals after seven appearances and won the league’s player of the month award in his first month. Not a bad debut for a guy who couldn’t find his way off the bench with his last team.
At Hull City in the English Championship, Diomande started just three times last season, scoring once. The season before that, he started 13 of 38 games, scoring twice.
“Dio’s a good player. Given opportunity, he’s going to always do well,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “At Hull, he never got the same chances.”
Bradley speaks from experience. In his second year coaching at Stabaek in the Norwegian first division, he signed Diomande from Dinamo Minsk and guided him to the most successful year of his career, one in which Diomande scored 25 goals in 26 games and made his international debut for Norway.
At the end of that season, Diomande moved on to Hull City, where he went through five managers in three seasons, while Bradley made coaching stops in France and the English Premier League before landing with LAFC 13 months ago. But the two kept in touch and when Hull agreed to release Diomande before the English season ended, LAFC signed him one minute before the international transfer window closed.
“I know how to play with Bob,” said Diomande, who was born in Oslo to parents from the Ivory Coast. “My confidence will be even higher with Bob than with any other manager because I had him before and I’ve been successful with him.”
Which isn’t to say the transition to the U.S. has been without rough edges. After a U.S. Open Cup game with the Portland Timbers last month, Diomande, writing on Instragram, said he had been called a racial slur. Through LAFC officials, he has refused to readdress the matter while an MLS investigation into the charge has dragged into its third week.
And now Diomande could again find himself fighting for playing time. Seven of his nine goals and four of his seven starts came while Carlos Vela was away with Mexico at the World Cup. Vela has since returned to reclaim his starting spot and Bradley also needs to find time up front for Diego Rossi, Marco Urena and Latif Blessing.
Whoever plays against the Red Bulls (13-6-2) will be trying to help LAFC regain its footing after a series of shaky performances. Although LAFC (10-7-6) has lost just one of its last eight MLS games, it gave up a two-goal lead in the final eight minutes in a draw with the Galaxy in its last outing, was blitzed 5-1 by Minnesota United four days before that and started July by giving up two goals in stoppage time in a tie with Houston.
That’s just the present though; Diomande also needs to think about his future. Because if he can keep playing, keep scoring and keep helping his team win, there’s plenty of time, at just 28, for him to leave Bradley again for an encore performance in Europe — this time one he hopes will have a happier ending.
“I have a European passport, so you never know,” said Diomande, who will make $939,999 this season, according to figures released by the MLS players union. “Of course, I need to sit down with the family and talk. I’m open to everything but I don’t think too much [about that].