The internet was in a tizzy all week after MLS’ website revealed the Handsomest 24 players under 24 years old. Or whatever that list is supposed to quantify. While I understand the excitement that comes with the promise and potential of young players, it’s past time we give some credit to the other end of the spectrum. As Pablo Mastroeni would surely tell you, heart, commitment, and the human spirit is what wins soccer games, and no one has more of that than the league veterans. Without further ado, here is our list of the 34 top MLS players over the age of 34.
A technical note before delving in: players that are age 34 are available for selection. Before you protest by saying it’s supposed to be “Over 34,” remember that this is a very analytically inclined website with decimal points and all that. So a player who is 34.08 years old is still eligible, because that’s clearly greater than 34.
David Villa, NCYFC - I know this is a controversial pick. I didn’t want to put him ahead of the next guy on the list, but he has the highest Audi Performance Index score of eligible players on the season, so I had no choice but to give him the top spot.
Alan Gordon, Colorado - He seems like one of the most likable guys in the league, he apparently drinks beer with opposing team’s supporters after games, and he’s maybe the only acceptable reason for a neutral to watch a Colorado Rapids game this season.
Clint Dempsey, Seattle - A lot of virtual ink has been spilled about what Deuce’s role on both the national team and the Sounders should be as he gets older, but he’s still 7th in the entire league in xG + xA.
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose - Arguably the top striker in league history, he’s still got it. Regardless of how clueless his coach is or where they try to put him on the field, Wondo will score double digit goals.
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake - Rimando has spent the better part of the last decade as a backup on the national team, so it seems like the right thing to do to put him one spot ahead of…
Tim Howard, Colorado - He’s 38 now and still starting for both club and country. Whether that says more about him or the state of the US goalkeeper pool, I’ll leave up to the reader.
Oguchi Onyewu, Philadelphia - Gooch’s renaissance this year after not seeing the field for years has been nothing short of remarkable. His career arc is pretty wild from Belgium to AC Milan to wherever the hell he spent the last five years, but he’s still probably the last guy in the league I’d insult in a bar.
Victor Bernardez, San Jose - In a lot of ways I feel like Bernardez is like a less-extreme, Honduran version of Oguchi Onyewu. Not quite as high of a career peak, not quite as many injuries or as severe of injuries, and not quite as scary.
Jeff Larentowicz, Atlanta - Larentowicz’s career seemed to be slowly fading out as recently as last year, but Tata Martino saw the success of players like Kevin DeBruyne and Dax McCarty, realized he needed a ginger in midfield and got him via the expansion draft. Larentowicz has logged over 2,000 minutes for the team that reinvents the sport every week, which is quite the career accomplishment for a 34 year old.
Andrea Pirlo, NYC - You can say he’s too high, but remember that one of the key rating criteria in any “Number Over/Under Age” list is handsomeness, and nobody beats Pirlo on that one.
Maynor Figueroa, Dallas - There are a lot of players on this list in a situation where their team would probably be better if the guy was playing fewer minutes. Figueroa is the poster child for this scenario.
Ashley Cole, LA Galaxy - I think Cole is probably one of the Galaxy’s top three players at the moment. That’s either a credit to the player or a discredit to the front office that put together the rest of this trash roster.
DaMarcus Beasley, Houston - DMB’s career renaissance as a durable left back after being constantly injured for the first ten years of his career is pretty fantastic. I know people whine every time he gets a national team call-up, but the first USMNT paraphernalia I owned was a Beasley shirsey that I bought at Dos A Cero 2005, so I refuse to insult the man.
Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake - Kinda cool to see KB5 as a veteran influence to the promising youngsters coming up through the RSL academy. But at some point they should probably figure out someone that can replace him at d-mid.
Kaka, Orlando - The Lions have definitely been better without him this year, but I can’t in good conscience drop him much lower than this. He’s still freaking Kaka.
Vicente Sanchez, Houston - I imagine his peak was like a poor man’s Kaka, but he’s aging way more gracefully. His role coming on for the last 20 minutes, clowning defenders and creating chances has been pretty great - somebody should explain the concept to Kaka.
Ricardo Clark, Houston - He’s been a solid contributor for Houston yet again this year, but the Dynamo d-mid torch has officially (and rightfully) been passed to Juan David Cabezas.
Patrice Bernier, Montreal - People have long said that Bernier has never got the credit he’s due because he’s Canadian, which is probably true. If he changes nationalities feel free to bump him up a few spots on this list.
Jermaine Jones, LA Galaxy - Just read the last three words of Ashley Cole’s blurb, and extrapolate. Sorry JJ, you were fun to watch for a while.
Marco Donadel, Montreal - I have almost no opinions or analysis to offer on Donadel’s game, but he did score this ridiculous goal a few weeks ago.
Damien Perrinelle, New York - Re-read Maynor Figueroa’s blurb. The thing is, there’s no way Jesse Marsch planned on playing Perrinelle anywhere near the 1700 minutes he’s logged. But injuries have taken their toll on that backline, and here we are.
Marcelo Sarvas, DC United - Here’s an example of what can go wrong when a team plans a sizable part of their roster around someone eligible for the 34 Over 34 list. Sometimes it turns out like NYC with Villa, sometimes it turns out like DCU with Marcelo.
Tyrone Mears, Atlanta - His role has diminished throughout the year as Atlanta continued to re-define the league. I guess that means Mears is a solid fullback for MLS 3.0, but he can’t really cope in MLS 3.48 or wherever Atlanta has us now.
Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake - I’m glad he’s back in Utah. It was weird seeing him play for NYC that one or two years.
Javier Morales, FC Dallas - His career has wound down in a pretty disappointing way, with this season in Dallas as the rotten cherry on top.
Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto - Like just about everyone else on Toronto’s roster, every time he plays he seems very effective and like he could thrive in a larger role.
Jason Hernandez, Toronto - Like just about everyone else on Toronto’s roster, every time he plays he seems very effective and like he could thrive in a larger role.
Bobby Boswell, Atlanta - He seemed like a shrewd pickup for Atlanta in the mold of Larentowicz, but apparently he’s more like Tyrone Mears and can’t quite keep up with how quickly Atlanta is revolutionizing the sport in this country.
Daigo Kobayashi, New England - I think he’s the only Japanese guy left in the league, so let’s hope he sticks around so MLS can keep that country colored in on their map of international players.
Demar Phillips, Real Salt Lake - Combined with Chris Wingert, I think that means left back for RSL might be the oldest and most anonymous position in the league.
Kevin Doyle, Colorado - Another good example of the downside to building your team around an older guy. Except in this case, they built their team around an older guy who wasn’t really very good to begin with. Hope you enjoy retirement, Kevin!
Jorge Bava, Chicago - I’m no goalkeeping expert, but this guy seemed pretty over-the-hill even before he lost the job to Matt Lampson and got injured.
Mauro Rosales, Vancouver - This guy is still in the league? Honestly shocked.
Josh Saunders, Orlando - He hasn’t made an appearance all season, but he earns the last spot on this list because I need everyone to know he apparently can still grow hair? Or maybe his league mug-shot is just an old picture. Either way, congrats on the final spot.
Just missed the cut: Brian Carroll (Philadelphia), Eric Kronberg (Montreal), Chris Rolfe (DC United) - none of them have played all season, they’re the only other three guys in the league over 34 so I felt bad leaving their names out of this article entirely.