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Aging Squad Does Not Bode Well For U.S. in 2014 World Cup

The USMNT was pantsed by Brazil. They looked insipid in a draw with those chipper fellows to the north. There are concerns about the team’s direction under Jurgen Klinsmann. Tactics are important. The “nastiness” quotient might be as well. Another crucial factor though, is age. This team will be very old in 2014, which does not augur well for World Cup success.

Six of Klinsmann’s 10 outfield starters against Canada (Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Goodson, Jones, Donovan and Gomez) will be 32 or older by the 2014 World Cup. He brought another from that age bracket, Onyewu , off the bench. That tally does not include Dempsey and Wondolowski, who will both be 31. That won’t be the exact XI. MLS 32 is not the same as European 32, but this looks to be a team in its twilight. That’s not good in a tournament where fitness can be decisive.

Bruce Arena’s USMNT reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002. Presumably, their next goal is to reach the semifinals. Looking back at the last four World Cups, old teams have not gotten far. Of the 16 teams that reached the World Cup semifinals from 1998-2010, the average number of 32-year-old outfield starters was 1.37. The only teams who had three were 1998 Brazil and 2006 France. Those teams got away with it, because those players were awesome.

Brazil’s 1998 trio – Aldair (32), Dunga (34) and Bebeto (34) – were veteran World Cup winners from the 1994 team. Two of 2006 France’s three – Zidane (33) and Thuram (34) – were veterans from the 1998 World Cup team. The third, Claude Makelele (33) was arguably the world’s best defensive midfielder in 2006. Perusing the 32-plus names on other teams brings up names such as Figo, Blanc, Cannavaro and Klose. No slight to the aging American stars, but they are not quite in that class.

From the World Cup winners, only two of the four teams, 2010 Spain and 2006 Italy, started a player 31 or older in the final. Neither started one in midfield or up front.

The USMNT is relying on older players, and not Zidane-caliber older players. This was a team that struggled defending pace and athleticism in 2010. The issue is clear. Klinsmann isn’t harboring delusions. The trouble is the next generation, due to injuries or ineffectiveness, has yet to step forward and even press for playing time. The group draw could be fortuitous. A number of best case scenarios could invigorate the squad, but it’s hard envisioning much success from the present group in Brazil. They still have work to do just to get there.

[Photo via Presswire]

 

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