I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
-- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T.S. Eliot)
Last season I did one of these and I thought it might be interesting to come back to it. At the end of last year we had 25 players who were at least 35 years old, of whom only 12 were in the league this year. Of those 12 still around, 7 are keepers. So if you're a field player at this age you're definitely feeling the hot breath of the reaper.
This year there are 22 players 35 or older at the end of the year (so 3 less) and a higher number (9) are keepers, so maybe MLS is slowly migrating away from its rep as a retirement league. Or maybe it's just a blip in the data. Anyway, here's the list:
Marcus Hahnemann (41) - Your winner and still undisputed champion of old-man strength. Our very own Sounder legend was the oldest player on the list last year as well. The expectation was that he'd play a homecoming season here this year and then hang them up, but he's given some hints that he may want to come back again next year. And with Michael Gspurning not showing exactly his best form late this season, don't be surprised if the club very much wants him to come back.
Carlo Cudicini (40) - After getting pushed way down the Tottenham goalkeeper depth chart by Hugo Lloris and Brad Friedel, Cudicini moved to LA this year on a free transfer. I'm sure the Galaxy thought they had a prize in a recent Premier League quality keeper. Unfortunately for them, he turned out to be incredibly unreliable and they had to go get Jaime Penedo to take over for him. There hasn't been any official word about what he'll do next, but he'd probably be a pretty expensive backup if he stayed on for next season.
Kevin Hartman (39) - Hartman was on retirement watch at the end of last season after being dropped by FC Dallas and going unpicked in the Re-Entry Draft. Just after the 2013 season started he signed with the Red Bulls, hinting that he wanted to transition into coaching. He didn't have an appearance for the team all season as apparently he was behind even Ryan Meara on the depth chart, so I'd expect this to be it for him as a player.
Oka Nikolov (39) - Goalkeeping fixture for Eintracht Frankfurt for 13 years, Nikolov joined the Union in the middle of this season on a league minimum deal, presumably to help mentor the younger Zac MacMath. Now he's apparently considering whether or not to stay on another year or retire and take on a coaching job in Germany.
Joe Cannon (38) - The veteran keeper lost his starting place in Vancouver to Brad Knighton and then was pushed even further down the depth chart when the 'Caps signed David Oustead mid-season. Still, there hasn't been any indication he's looking to retire yet.
Matt Reis (38) - (Note: due to a clerical error, Reis was originally left off the list)
After being New England's #1 for years, Reis came into the season as the backup to Bobby Shuttleworth. He took back over the starting job in the second half of the season as the Revs made their run into the playoffs. But late in their final playoff game he tore a quad, putting him out for at least 5 months, which would run into the beginning of next season. Now he's unsure about whether he wants to try to play another year.
Jon Busch (37) - It wasn't a great year for San Jose, but Busch still seems to be going strong in goal. He's probably got another couple of years before the Quakes have to worry about whether David Bingham can be a reliable successor.
Marco Di Vaio (37) - The first non-keeper on the list. Congrats, Marco! Certainly a memorable year for the veteran Italian, as he was third in the league in goals with 20 and first by a country mile in being called offside with 78 (to EJ's mere 42). The Impact season ended on a terrible note after they spent much of the season near the top of the standings, but he re-upped his contract with Montreal during the year and with his goal-scoring production, there's no reason to think he won't be scoring goals again for them next season.
Pablo Mastroeni (37) - After nearly 12 years with the Rapids, Mastroeni was traded to the Galaxy in midseason, to provide the kind of veteran something or other that Bruce Arena so loves. He made a handful of appearances for the Galaxy, but now that their season is over he's out of contract. Apparently, he'd like to continue playing, which is understandable given that his career was nearly prematurely ended due to concussions.
Alessandro Nesta (37) - (Note: due to a clerical error, Nesta was originally left off the list)
Unlike his similarly aged countrymate Di Vaido, Nesta is not feeling fresh. Perhaps he should try getting called offside a few more times. After starting most of the season for the Impact, one of the greatest defenders of all time has decided to hang up his boots.
Ramiro Corrales (36) - The old war horse and final MLS original was able to get one more contract out of the Earthquakes this season. He played in 12 games in spot duty and in October he announced he'd retire at the end of the season. In the Quakes' final game he was carried off the field by his teammates, which seems nice I guess.
Thierry Henry (36) - He's getting up there in years, but Henry is still super good. His service is still impeccable and he's reliably scoring on bicycles and he led the team to a Supporters Shield, so there's no reason to think he won't be suiting up for the Red Bulls next season, except for games on turf.
Y.P. Lee (36) - The fullback and Korean legend played nearly every game for the Whitecaps this season, but in midseason he announced it'd be his last year as a professional. Before retiring, he helped Vancouver earn their first Cascadia Cup in the MLS era, so that's nice for them.
Jimmy Nielsen (36) - Back to keepers. This guy. I can't even talk about this guy or his tongue. Waggle on, Nielsen. Waggle on.
Donovan Ricketts (36) - Ugh, these two IN A ROW? Ricketts terribly injures his shoulder every 17 minutes, but he still makes some impressive saves. I don't know. Whatever.
Mikaël Silvestre (36) - Desperate to join the magic that is Cascadia, the onetime Arsenal defender trialed with both the Timbers and the Sounders in preseason, and then somehow the Sounders got some marginal draft picks from Portland so that the Timbers could sign the guy they just trialed. Sounds good. He looked decent early (not counting his first game), but tore an ACL in the first half of the season. As far as I can tell, there's every expectation that he'll be back competing for a job with Portland next season.
Brian Ching (35) - Stand tall, Sounder. Ching's already announced he'll retire after this season. He's been pretty marginalized for Houston this year with no goals in spot substitute duty, but they're still in the playoffs so who knows. Maybe he'll score the MLS Cup winning goal. Over the Timbers. In Jeld-Wen. I'm photoshopping this right now.
Laurent Courtois (35) - After a few years at Chivas, French
defender midfielder Courtois moved to the Galaxy in midseason because something something Arena something veteran something. He didn't get a lot of playing time, but I haven't read any indication he plans to retire.
Dwayne De Rosario (35) - What a tumultuous life DeRo has. I have no idea why. I watched his MLS 36. He seems like a pretty chill guy. . nice kids. . oatmeal with fruit every morning for breakfast. But after jumping through nearly every club in the Eastern Conference and finally making the playoffs with DC last year, he suffered through one of the worst seasons in MLS history, except for winning the US Open Cup. An enigma of a player on an enigma of a team. After the season, they announced they'd be declining his option, which (assuming the MLS rules don't change) means he'll go into the Re-Entry Draft.
Shalrie Joseph (35) - You all know this story. Shalrie was saved from Chivas by Seattle, who got a bunch of goodies and salary relief to get him off of their books. And then later in the season he renegotiated out of his DP contract so the Sounders could sign Clint Dempsey! And then he started at forward in the MLS Cup playoffs against our arch-rivals! It's like a movie. Everything worked out great.
Part of that renegotiation was an extension of his deal, but it's up in the air whether we'll actually try to get him on the field next season after he struggled with fitness and injuries all year. It's just as likely the team will buy out that season.
Danny Koevermans (35) - After missing almost a full calendar year to an ACL injury, Koevermans returned to the field for Toronto in July, but after a handful of games and 78 total minutes he was shut down again due to a calf injury. There's no indication that he doesn't want to try to come back again next year, but at 35 with less than 90 minutes played in almost two years, he has a hill to climb.
Brian Mullan (35) - I hope Brian Mullan retires relatively comfortably and happy but then in about 10 years looks back a little wistfully and wishes he had played just one more year. #ClassyMullanHate