Track record of Top League vets bodes well for Rooney in MLS

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Sometimes you start researching a post, only to have just a few clicks on a stats page end any misgivings about the other side of your argument.

[ MORE: JPW on Rooney move ]

Wayne Rooney looks set to make a move to DC United, which is predictably being met by three sets of rallying cries:

  1. MLS is a retirement league (false)
  2. He’s not going to be worth it (relative and debatable)
  3. DC would be better served spend its money on younger Player X “not everyone’s heard of”

There’s little doubt that the fine work of Atlanta United has inspired and invigorated teams to look younger. Better to sign those on the stairway to the elite, not the escalator away from it.

But how often has a top European league starter, let alone a 10-goal Premier League scorer, produced at MLS?

Spoiler alert: Almost always. And the “clear busts” are very hard to find.

Here are two things we’ve learned, when it comes to Rooney or any player coming from an intense season in a top league:

  1. There are usually good signs in the abbreviated first season, but the second year is where the best output occurs (logically due to the stress of going from one season to the next and the ensuing offseason of rest).
  2. These may’ve looked like moves to sell jerseys and spread their club names worldwide, and they surely accomplished that, but class is close to permanent.

First we have to define the sample size, and we’ll stay in recent seasons considering the league — and this is not up for debate — is better than ever.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to finishing 2nd ]

It’s still too soon to judge Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 17 goals for Manchester United in 2016-17 before missing most of this season.

We’ll also steer clear of Americans returning home, in part because that deserves its own post. Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, and Brad Guzan have met very different fates, but there are myriad components to their moves home.

Who does qualify? We look through traditional numbers and take a run through advanced stats site WhoScored.com to back us up.

Pre-S: For those who say, “but you listed some of the best names in modern soccer history,” … exactly.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Last team: Manchester United
MLS team: Chicago Fire
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Chicago was on an entirely different level when Schweinsteiger was healthy, as the Fire went from also-ran to threatening a first-round bye in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

David Villa

Last team: Atletico Madrid
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 33
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Don’t really need to write more, do I?

Giovani Dos Santos

Last team: Villarreal
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 26
Status report: Amazing start, but jury out; Dos Santos posted three goals and five assists in his first 10 MLS matches, then followed it up with a wonderful 14-goal, 12-assist performance in 2016. Last season was terrible, but the early returns make the deal worthwhile.

Kaka

Last team: AC Milan
MLS team: Orlando City
Age upon arrival: 32
Status report: Unqualified success; Twenty-four goals and 19 assists in three seasons with a brand new MLS club. That is not bad. His second of three seasons here was marvelous.

Sebastian Giovinco

Last team: Juventus
New team: Toronto FC
Age upon arrival: 28
Status report: One of the best players in MLS history. Next.

Andrea Pirlo

Last team: Juventus
MLS team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 36
Status report: Disappointment, but not as bad you recall; Pirlo had a bad ending at NYCFC, as his legs and waning passion caught up to him, but his first two seasons were good offensively, including an 11-assist campaign in 2016. He was 10th in key passes that season.

Steven Gerrard

Last team: Liverpool
MLS team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Slow start, but a success; Gerrard was fine in his first half-season, but really shone when available as a sophomore. The Liverpool legend scored three goals and added 11 assists in 21 games; Only Sacha Kljestan recorded a better assist-per-90 minute ratio in MLS that season, and he was the 20th rated player in MLS by WhoScored.

Frank Lampard

Last team: Manchester City
New team: New York City FC
Age upon arrival: 37
Status report: Slow start, but a success; “Lamps” came to MLS at 37 after a long PL season, and fought injuries. But despite his age, Lampard scored 12 goals in 19 matches as a midfielder during his second season. Villa, Pirlo, and Lampard ranked 1, 4, and 5 on NYCFC’s performance score in 2016.

Ashley Cole

Last team: Roma
New team: LA Galaxy
Age upon arrival: 35
Status report: Just okay; Considering that his signing seemed a laugh to the majority of fans (everywhere), his consistent appearances with a poor LA defense move this above considerably above “bust” status.