Major League Soccer is not a place for 33-year-old central midfielders, generally speaking. The heat of a U.S. summer, combined with the debilitating tread wear of travel across a big land is a less-than-ideal recipe for box-to-box guys who operate centrally.
However, a holding midfielder into his 30s in MLS? Examples abound of where a smart athlete, properly placed and able to recognize his limitations, can greatly boost a club.
That’s why the FC Dallas’ signing of former Atlético Madrid defensive midfielder Peter Luccin looks intriguing.
Going all the way back to a terrific Miami Fushion side of 2001, I always thought the contributions of a smart, veteran holding presence in MLS has been underrated. Ian Bishop (pictured), I thought, never got enough credit as a real linchpin of that Supporters Shield winner from South Florida.
Same with Daniel Hernandez’s contributions to Dallas’ 2010 MLS Cup runner-up side. Heck, look at how much David Beckham, at age 37, provided to the Galaxy’s recent MLS Cup title defense.
Yes, a guy like Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso will cover more defensive ground and provide more two-day midfield drive. But Bishop, Hernandez, Beckham and others know they cannot be Alonso in terms of legginess and hard-tackling range. So they hold, smartly and reliably, knowing where to be and when to be there in defense screening capacity.
Their real value is in steady, comfortable and simple distribution, which isn’t nearly so easy as it sounds. The ability to work the angles and find just the right spot, to make things easy on defenders who want to move the ball smartly and sharply out of the back, is invaluable.
It’s why guys without much of a “wow” factor can still contribute here.
As for the 33-year-old Luccin, we’ll have to wait and see; he hasn’t played much over the last four years. But the ability to contribute certainly exists in MLS.