It is no secret that the Seattle Sounders are far from the youngest side in the MLS. They have a number of veterans that have been at the club for years and time is not particularly on their side.
So, is this the last good chance this current crop of players have to win the MLS Cup? Can they realistically expect to fight through another long grueling MLS season again next year and achieve the same, or more, success?
Firstly, this is soccer, there is no set retirement age. All players age differently and can continue at a high level within the game for differing amounts of time.
However, certain positions and indeed players that rely on attributes such as pace, are more susceptible to the aging process in soccer.
Box-to-box midfielders, quick forwards and wingers are all at risk of having shorter careers due to the type of work they do on the pitch. So how does all this affect the Sounders? Let’s look at the ages of the possible starting XI for Sunday’s game against FC Dallas:
More from Sounders Nation
Leo Gonzalez – 34
Clint Dempsey – 32
Andreas Ivanschitz – 32
Tyrone Mears – 32
Obafemi Martins – 31
Chad Marshall – 31
Nelson Valdez – 31
Stefan Frei – 29
Erik Friberg – 29
Andy Rose – 25
Average Age: 31
Sure, Zach Scott would be replaced in the side by Brad Evans (30). But equally, Andy Rose would make way for Osvaldo Alonso (29). The result is that the average age only drops a fraction, to 30.9 years.
What about when Roman Torres (29) comes back? Well, assuming he partners Marshall and Evans moves to left back, the first choice XI would still be 30.5 years.
It is clear to see that a large number of Sounders players are reaching that stage in their career where performance starts to decline, and it only goes one way from there.
The potentially scary thing is that so many of the starting XI is reaching this stage at the same time, including a number of key players. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are perhaps the most alarming.
Dempsey although older, does not rely on his pace and so can probably easily remain in the side for another couple of years (provided his schedule is managed). Martins on the other hand, is a player reliant largely on his pace. If this is taken away, and it will naturally decline over the next couple of years, he loses his edge.
Considering that the Sounders equaled their lowest Western Conference finish this year, it could potentially be argued that the decline is already in place. If so, this playoff run could be the current squad’s best chance to achieve an MLS Cup.
Many will point to injuries as the reason the Sounders struggled through large parts of the summer months. However, it can be argued that more injuries are occurring because the squad is old and cannot handle the demanding MLS schedule as well anymore.
Experience goes a long way at this stage of the playoffs and this is certainly something that the Sounders have in spades. This year has also seen them finally overcome their playoff nemesis, LA Galaxy.
There is a positive vibe around the group of players at the moment, and the fans have picked up on it. Whispers are going around that it feels like this could finally be the year. Stars are aligning and the Sounders are ready to pounce.
Well, unless dramatic changes are afoot over the next couple of years, it may HAVE to be this year.
What do you think – Does this season represent the best chance the Sounders will have to win the MLS Cup?
Whatever your thoughts, the Sounders take on FC Dallas this Sunday, let’s cheer them on and send those positive vibes!