This piece ably researched by David Moscow, Phil Lavanco, Clay Sauerteig, & Brandon Miller. Thanks.
So the following comment in our USA vs. Antigua & Barbuda preview–by schweeb–got our mind percolating. Republishing: [edited]
So if Klinsmann were to use the team’s current roster now–and this is without counting the goalkeeper–the US would have 10 guys or so at 30 or over at World Cup qualifying.
With that being said, is he using this time now to test these guys and see if they can keep up a World Cup type play where they are constantly playing or is he testing younger guys mainly Michael Bradley, Jose Torres that are going to be around 26-or-so to build the team around them?
The following are the ages that the various USMNT pool players will be at World Cup 2014 in Brazil:
DEF: Carlos Bocanegra, 35; Steve Cherundolo, 35; Clarence Goodson 32; Oguchi Onyewu, 32; Michael Parkhurst, 30; Edgar Castillo, 27; Eric Lichaj, 25; Geoff Cameron, 28, Omar Gonzalez 26
MID: Kyle Beckerman, 32; Jermaine Jones, 32; Michael Bradley, 26; Maurice Edu, 28; Jose Francisco Torres, 26; Alfredo Morales, 24; Danny Williams 25
FWD: Jozy Altidore: 24, Terrence Boyd: 22, Clint Dempsey 30, Landon Donovan 31, Herculez Gomez, 31
With this question in mind, it prompted a review of some positional age averages for the Euro 2012 festivities that start today.
Seeing as it how it is difficult to sometimes approximate the top of a formation and comparatively analyze a false nine with say an attacking mid, the exam was confined to the following positions of most interest: Fullback, Centerback and Central Midfield.
[Note*: Give a pass on the US starters if they’re not etched in stone, a means of review more than a statement on who starts.]
United States starters: Steve Cherundolo 33 (35 at WC), Fabian Johnson 24 (26 at World Cup)
US pecking order: Eric Lichaj 23 (25 at WC), Edgar Castillo 25 (27 at WC), Josh Gatt 20 (22 at WC)
Average age, Euro 2012 expected starters: [26.7]
Of note: Ashely Cole/England (31), Patrice Evra/France (31), Lars Jacobsen/Denmark (32)
Conclusions: Very interesting.
First, great data point that Evra and Cole
are the same age two years younger than Cherundolo–so reviewing their effectiveness and longevity over the coming two years in parallel with Cherundolo should provide some interesting data points.
What might be slightly different is that Jurgen Klinsmann’s current system favors bum rushing the fullbacks up the pitch to create width. Not so the system’s of England (Cole) and France (Evra) quite as much–Cole does slither forward quite a bit.
It’s noted that Johnson–professed by some to be one of the best fullbacks currently in the Bundesliga–seems like he will be–based upon these numbers alone–right in the sweet spot, age-wise come Brazil 2014, if it’s accepted that the Euros are a good proxy.
Comparable to Fab, might be another “Fab”….Fabio Coentrao of Portugal (24 years old) and Jordi Alba (a nifty little player, 23 years old) of Spain.
That said, you can see with the trend to use CMs more to cover over backs and really the modern game showing that fullback width is the hallmark of dominant teams (Lahm for Germany, Alves or Maicon for Brazil, Van Der Weil for Holland) that the ideal age of such players who probably cover more ground in most systems than those center mids is on the younger side.
United States starters: Clarence Goodson 30 (32 at WC), Carlos Bocanegra 33 (35 at World Cup)
US Pecking order: Geoff Cameron 26 (28 at WC), Tim Ream 24 (26 at WC), Oguchi Onyewu 30 (32 at WC)
Average age, Euro 2012 expected starters: 
Of note: Kjaer/Denmark (23), Ramos/Spain (26)
Conclusions: Maybe not what you think here; didn’t seem intuitive at all.
For those that fondly remember the defensive steel curtain of the Azzurri at World Cup 2006 with the symbiotic pairing of Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro–30 and 32-years-old respectively in Germany that Cup-lifting year, the notion that centerbacks were more cagey, experienced, cerebral vets seemed to have been affirmed.
However, looking at the Euros here, it’s not the case. In fact, some of the stronger pairings: Italy (Chiellini & Bonucci) or Denmark (Kjaer & Agger) skew even younger in average age.
Is this perhaps a developing trend with the advent of more players forward (the adoption of the 4-3-3) or is it due to playing a higher line? (Seems more the former if anything)
This is perhaps where the States will be “outside spec” the furthest if a pairing of Goodson and Bocanegra (an average age of 33.5 at World Cup 2014) progress.
It is worth noting that two favorites–Germany and Holland–are both accused of having suspect centerback pairings. Germany falls below the mean age while Holland falls above.
United States starters*: Michael Bradley 24 (26 at WC), Jermaine Jones 30 (32 at World Cup)
US Pecking order: Beckerman 30 (32 at WC), Edu 26 (28 at WC), Torres 24 (26 at WC)
Average age, Euro 2012 expected starters: [28.8]
Of note: Steven Gerrard (32), Scotty Parker (30), Xavi (32), Xavi Alonso (30), Anders Svensson (35), Mark Van Bommell (35)
Conclusions: Not, perhaps, what you’d think here. The average of CMs is an elder 28.8 years old. A tad at least surprising.
More astounding? All but three clubs (Denmark, Germany, Portugal) feature at least one starter who is at least 30 years of age.
Most teams pair a mid-20’s-year old with a 30-year old.
But there are further anomalies, the Greeks–long more a defensive side–will play at a more frenetic pace than previous Euros and World Cups but have Giorgos Karagounis (35) and Kostas Katsouranis (32) in their midfield. As well, the Ukrainians like to press up the pitch (a la Klinsmann’s desired system) and feature 33-year-old Anatoliy Tymoshcuk of Bayern an Serhiy Nazarenko of Tavriya in the center of the pitch.
From the cursory review above and from the long witnessed bossing of US centerbacks in international play (Gyan, Ghana 2010; Dos Santos/Mexico vs. at Gold Cup 2011) and many more examples, it only reaffirms the notion that the central components of the back line need the most care and tweaking in the 2014 run-up. Not a surprise.
What must be considered further is if the US starting centerback rotation is physically challenged now–given that it is currently north of the average age of Euro 2012 centerbacks–can be expected that “more of the same” will lead to improvement? Is that the only option?
That said, what’s next? Geoff Cameron seems to have the chops, but he’s 26 and desperately needs to be tested week-in and week-out against better competition to improve his game. Tim Ream is promising, but more on the attacking side of the ball currently.
The U-23 crops saw their back line spine continually ravaged in Olympic qualifying. Perry Kitchen (22 at World Cup 2014) and Ike Opara (25 years old) were either overmatched and playing out of position–the former–or lacking experience and fortitude–the latter.
Is it asking too much of Hertha’s John Anthony Brooks–forecasted club reps unknown–too much to be ready at 21 for World Cup 2014? Absolutely. Should…should Eric Lichaj perhaps slide inward given his size and strength and penchant to foul in pursuit?
Maybe Bob Bradley playing Maurice Edu at centerback wasn’t such a bad idea?
Mama, tell your kids to grow up to be centerbacks.