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Is RSL aged?

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Wine and cheese or vinegar and mold?

John Engels, 2017

I sit here contemplating the hindrance that is age and I find myself really feeling this piece. I’m about to question age as a factor in a bunch of guys who are my age. Kyle Beckerman is barely two months older than me, Chris Wingert, two weeks. I don’t really feel old, yet. I don’t feel twenty or even twenty-eight, that’s for sure. But we’re not old, are we? I do have a rapidly-expanding bald spot and my beard’s streaked with gray. Sigh.

Therein lies my concern. Nick Rimando is the third oldest player in the league behind Tim Howard and Andrea Pirlo. RSL’s average age is 27.01, the fifth oldest team in the league. The youngest is FC Dallas at an average age of 24.31. So I wanted to check for correlation. I took the average ages from this MLS Soccer article and compared them to the current Supporters’ Shield Standings. Know what I found? Correlation.

Of the youngest ten teams in MLS, nine are currently in the top ten of the league. There’s also an interesting sweet spot at 26.1 years of average age. Vancouver and Houston are outliers. If we remove those two, the distinct negative correlation really appears; that is, as age increases, standing decreases. The top ten youngest teams have an average standing of 6.9 while the twelve oldest teams’ average standing is 15.33.

This leads me to a tearful and sad conclusion: it’s time to phase out the old guys and let the young talent shine. Dallas, the youngest team in the league, is the only remaining undefeated team.

Kyle, Chris, and Nick are looking old, making mistakes they’d never have made years ago. Remember when we could count on Rimando’s pinpoint distribution? At my count, he’s cost us three goals this year. Remember the Beckerbomb? He hasn’t scored since 2015 and he only scored one goal that season. I know, I know. He’s not a goalscorer. That’s not his gig. But he used to at least put his Beckerbombs on target, throw the defense into disarray. Wingert probably shouldn’t be starting, wouldn’t be starting but for injuries.

I’m not screaming retirement. It’s not that time yet. They still have contributions to make, especially off the pitch. They’re all experienced leaders on the team. But should they still be starting? Or would we be better off finding the right young players to take over those spots? Youth is starting to make an impact in this league. How long do we continue with these older players instead of giving youth the chance? When talking about new systems, new coaches, new looks, and new identities, should it not be the youth that drive that novelty?

I get loyalty. I get the history of affection for these players. They’ve done so much for RSL over the years. I wouldn’t like to see them played like Morales. But I also think letting Morales move on was the right move, just not completed in the classiest fashion. None of us want to feel old, but time and tide and all that. And then there’s this from Bradley Wright-Phillips.

It’s still early season. We have a long time to get this ship to ramming speed. The data above is bound to change and it only reflects six to eight games played. Teams are going to be all over the standings. LA never starts playing until July. We still have a ton of injuries. Everyone has off games. Atlanta is a really good team. In an earlier article, I gave Rusnák until April 29th vs. Sporting Kansas City to start shining, and he now has two goals and three assists, so that’s something to be excited about. SKC is a strong team, though. The league has gotten tougher. It’s a long season.