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)
Now in our fourth season, the Retirement Watch highlights the oldest active players in our favorite retirement league, checking in on those who every winter are faced with the decision to hang up their cleats or give it one more season.
The number of players 35 or older who've been tracked in the retirement watch over the last four years — 2012: 25, 2013: 22, 2014: 15, 2015: 15. Clearly the trend is down. That might come as a surprise given that the league notably added the very long-in-the-tooth Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard last year. But the league will always splash for big names in their final years. . the difference is a move away from older backup and rotational players, which hopefully is a good sign for youth development in the country. And as is tradition I will point out that if you turned 35 this year you were alive when Blondie's Call Me was on top of the charts.
One other important note. . this is the first Retirement Watch in which Marcus Hahnemann is not the oldest player. The three-time oldest player in the league and still champion of our hearts has moved on to his next career as a Chewbacca cosplayer.
Jon Busch (39) - The new king of oldness may only have a brief stay at the top, as he was a member of the first ever MLS free agent class and has yet to be signed by a team. The list of players who got minutes in their 40s is very small, but Busch got playing time this season and is a good candidate for the valuable-but-underpaid veteran backup goalkeeper role if he wants to give it another year.
Donovan Ricketts (38) - In a career of solid roster building, Bruce Arena made one of his oddest decisions when he repaired the surprising departure of
young (actually fairly old) goalkeeping phenom Jaime Penedo by bringing Ricketts back to the team from Orlando mid-season. Ricketts never looked his old self, and it's possible his final MLS game was the playoff loss to the Sounders, in which mistakes between Ricketts and his backline contributed to Seattle's first two goals. Now Ricketts is out of contract and was not selected in either Re-Entry Draft, meaning the Galaxy hold his rights but seem to have little interest in bringing him back.
Didier Drogba (37) - Drogba is the oldest of the league's marquee midseason signings, but is the one who had the biggest. . impact. After joining mid-season he carried Montreal on his broad back into the playoffs with his brand of relentless, powerful finishing. He will no doubt be back next year, and one of the Eastern Conference's biggest questions will be whether he can perform again at the level he did in the 2015 run-in on 38-year-old legs.
Frank Lampard (37) - Lampard was technically on the list last year as an offseason signing, but as we all know he lost some enthusiasm for the New York project somewhere along the way and didn't join the team until midseason. Now there are rumors (or rank speculation) that he could retire and move into a broadcast role in the UK, but he's given every indication publicly that he plans to be back with the team in preseason.
Andrea Pirlo (36) - The third consecutive midseason addition and second consecutive very old NYCFC midfielder on the list, Pirlo entered the league on a high after scintillating performances in the 2014 World Cup, but spent much of the second half of the season looking uninterested. He and Lampard being huge defensive liabilities was a big part of New York's failure in their inaugural season and if both return new coach Patrick Vieira will have to figure out how to square that midfield circle.
Nick Rimando (36) - Rimando had a down year, as did the rest of the Real Salt Lake franchise, but he remains the bane of would-be goalscorers everywhere. The consistently-best-goalkeeper in the league (who has somehow never won a Goalkeeper of the Year award) has a solid backup in Jeff Attinella, but there's every indication that Rimando will be back to try to right Salt Lake's ship next season.
Patrice Bernier (36) - The Montreal Impact's captain is the oldest player on the list who isn't a goalkeeper or a pricey European import. Imagine if Zach Scott were a midfielder. . that's Bernier for Montreal. He played for them before they were even called up to MLS and he's come up huge for them late in the season, scoring two goals in the playoffs. He looks fit enough to captain Montreal for another season so I'd expect him back in 2016.
Vicente Sanchez (36) - Sanchez was a rare offensive bright spot on a disaster of a 2015 Colorado Rapids team. But he also just turned 36 and was already having his minutes carefully managed with a lot of rotation last season. His 2016 option was declined and he went through the Re-Entry Draft unselected, meaning his time in MLS is almost certainly over.
Javier Morales (35) - Morales is still the key to Real Salt Lake's attack, which is both a testament to his skill and commitment and a huge warning sign for a club that was already dire with him on the field, and now can't rely on him much longer. There's every indication he'll be back next season, but he'll be 36 before the season kicks off and the Lakers will need to find someone else to fill his boots sooner rather than later.
Steven Gerrard (35) - The Liverpool legend was a big get for the league from a PR perspective, but he never really gelled well with the Galaxy's other two DPs and for the first time in years the Galaxy went into the playoffs looking vulnerable. They quickly bowed out to the Sounders and now Arena will have to figure out how to get Gerrard, Keane, and Dos Santos on the same page next season.
Davy Arnaud (35) - For years Arnaud was the prototypical Eastern Conference midfielder that didn't get much fanfare but showed up every day, did good work, and made sure his team kept winning. Now his career may be in jeopardy. He missed the last 3 months of the season after suffering a concussion in training, and has said he'll call it a career if he's not 100% sure he's right for preseason.
Zach Scott (35) - Mr Sounder may have reached the end of an incredible run that saw him put on a Seattle Sounders jersey in 2002 and not stop putting one on for the next 13 years. Scott opted out of the Re-Entry Draft and is now out of contract. Given that he was already playing for peanuts, it seems unlikely the club would bring him back at a reduced salary, but if they have any sense they'll take care of him in other ways. If this is the end, Scott will have finished with his fingerprints on two championships, three regular season titles, four Cascadia Cups, and four US Open Cups.
Robbie Keane (35) - Transitioning from writing about the last guy to having to write about this guy is one of the worst experiences a writer can have. . I do not recommend it. Keane is a very competitive and dedicated guy and I'm sure he'll be back next year waving his arms around and flipping off his teammates and groin-kicking people. He'll probably score some goals.
Pa-Modou Kah (35) - Starting for both the Timbers and Whitecaps should make Kah Sounder-enemy number 1, but he's too big of a goof to actually dislike that much. Somehow he keeps getting minutes despite not being a very good defender. He was eligible for the Re-Entry Draft but re-signed with Vancouver instead so it looks like that will continue to be the case.
Leo Gonzalez (35) - Born in late November, Leo is the youngest player to make the list, but it looks like his time in Seattle is also done. He was behind both Dylan Remick and Oniel Fisher in the left back pecking order and was exposed to the Re-Entry Draft, where he was unpicked. Now there are reports he's heading back to play in Costa Rica. If this was his last year in Seattle and Scott leaves, only Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans would remain from the 2009 expansion team.