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Are the Sounders too old?

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Concerned over the decrepit and weary state of the players, we look into the age of contributing players for the Seattle Sounders and how that age compares to other teams in the MLS.

Osvaldo Alonso prepares for a nap
Osvaldo Alonso prepares for a nap
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Did you guys hear that Clint Dempsey is tired and using this little weekend off to get some time off? Or that Andy Rose has been spelling Gonzalo Pineda because the latter is getting pretty worn down? Did you notice the Sounders' second CB is a competition between old, older, and ineffective? As the MLS Cup Playoffs loom, the toil of months of games between regular season, the US Open Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League starts to add up on the old, weary legs of players.

But something that's concerned me this past season is that the core group of contributors for the Sounders seem to be fairly old, and by old I mean "currently at or past their prime." So I was curious about exactly how old, and I don't mean the average age of all the players, I wanted to know how old the average Best XI were, to get the average age for the average minutes played (really, it's best X as I only included outfielder players in this. No goalies were included whatsoever).

There were some maths involved, I won't lie. It got pretty tedious, but I persevered. What I found out was that the average age of the average minute contributed by a Seattle Sounders play in the MLS this season (as of September 8th) is approximately 29 years, 6 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days old.

Great. Math kicked out a number that passes the sniff test. But just that number alone doesn't tell me anything. If I wanted to know if Seattle is an "old" team, I needed to find out the average age of the average minute contributed for all teams. So I did.

Club Avg. Age
New England Revolution 26.415
Columbus Crew 26.747
Colorado Rapids 26.982
Sporting Kansas City 27.101
Philadelphia Union 27.276
Toronto FC 27.276
Vancouver Whitecaps 27.305
FC Dallas 27.801
Houston Dynamo 27.907
Chicago Fire 28.254
MLS Average 28.257
Portland Timbers 28.504
Chivas USA 28.507
DC United 29.002
Real Salt Lake 29.196
L'Impact de Montréal 29.221
LA Galaxy 29.385
Seattle Sounders 29.578
San Jose Earthquakes 29.703
New York Red Bulls 30.723

Three huge caveats:

  • The date I used to determine the age for each player was September 8, 2014.
  • No goalkeepers were included in this data, only outfield players.
  • I used the stats from MLS players page and each respective teams' players page, which means if a player cannot be found on either, they're not included (essentially this means retired players or players who were sold out of the league before I could get their minutes).
Items of Note
  • The average age for the average minute played in MLS this season is 28 years, 3 months, and 2 days old.
  • The average for the Eastern Conference is 27.99 years old.
  • The average for the Western Conference is 28.55 years old.
  • NYRB's average player is more than a year older than the 2nd oldest team (2.07σ).
  • The average for Eastern teams in playoff position is 27.31 years old.
  • The average for Western teams in playoff position is 28.89 years old.

Back in April, our favorite goat Alicia put together a chart that organized each MLS team's rank by salary. This isn't up to date anymore, as it still has New England entire salary being lower than the reported $3,000,000/year Jermaine Jones will be pulling in now. But at least the chart shows you which teams are spending (average was $5.4million), and wouldn't you know, this roughly correlates to the age of a roster, with three out of four most expensive teams also being the oldest.

Through this you can see some good process teams (low salary, low average age, playoff position) in New England, SKC, and Columbus, but you can also see some bad process teams (high salary, high average age, non-playoff position) in San Jose, Montreal, and even this season's version of NYRB and Toronto, although they each are within 3 points of the red line with a game in hand.

But Seattle falls into a third group primarily with the Galaxy and last season's version of NYRB, one that spends money, has higher than average age, but gets favorable results.

The difference between the East and West surprises me, but at the same time they don't. The general thinking has been that the Western Conference is far superior to their Eastern counterpart. But within the West, perhaps the older, more expensive teams beat out those young pups of teams due to talent, regardless of age. And perhaps in the East, where purportedly the talent level isn't as high, those young pups run those older teams ragged. I won't claim to know the answers, just find the numbers intriguing.

As the Sounders age, what will the future hold for them? Do they have younger players ready to contribute productive minutes as seasons wear on and oldest players wear out? Of the five defenders with the most minutes, Deandre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Zach Scott, Djimi Traore, and Leo Gonzalez, four of them are on the wrong side of 30 and the fifth was just sold. So a renaissance of youth should eventually be in order. One thing we do know, after a certain age players start echoing the famed philosopher Roger Murtaugh, and they get too old for this shit.