Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Are these MLS players too old?! Check yourself

24-SeasonPass_KevinEgan_Brad Guzan

Hello there, beautiful people! Welcome to 360 View with yours truly, Kevin Egan.

Last week’s ‘MLS 360’ was fun! It was busier than ever with 12 games on at once, as the Eastern and Central time zone kick-offs crossed over. It was the quickest three hours of my life, and I guess that means I was enjoying every second of it. I’m pumped to tear into another Saturday of MLS 360, and I hope you are as well. As always, get involved throughout using #MLS360.

Here comes a thought that’s been on my mind for a while, so bear with me. We live in a swipe-right world. Instant gratification seems to be a must. Patience, what’s that? In the age of social media, folks know that displaying a little common sense and understanding gets you nowhere, but clickbait sensationalism thrives.

So how does this ‘old man shouting at clouds’ perspective relate to MLS? I’m here to defend and heap praise on some lads who are hovering in and around my age (38), but who are excelling – even though they were written off by the masses.

Players in their late 30s aren’t always the sexy pick. The obvious exception to that rule is our fella Sacha Kljestan, creating US Open Cup buzz with a sensational return at 38. But that’s a novelty and surely a one-off. Unless of course he’s asked next season. You’ve still got it, Sach!

But seriously, we’re often so quick to write guys off simply due to their age. That’s a dangerous game and often the ultimate motivator.

Brad Guzan may be the best example of this. What season preview had a projected XI with Guzan in the Atlanta United team? I’ll wait. As someone who’s called Atlanta United games for years, I found his omission startling, but then again, that’s the swipe-right mentality, right?! Guzan didn’t have a great season in 2023, but neither did the central midfield or defense of Atlanta United. Miles Robinson and Guzan were coming off Achilles tendon injuries, too. It takes time to get back to feeling like yourself.

One thing I know about Guzan is he has a black belt in mental fortitude. When he stumbles, he jumps up, and when he’s backed into a corner, he comes out swinging. Take last season at home vs the Revs – not Guzan’s finest moment, handing the ball to his old Aston Villa teammate Carles Gil, and New England’s No. 10 scored after 21 seconds. A howler. He was understandably taking a public beating from fans, both near and far. What did he do in the next game? He put in a Man-of-the-Match performance, keeping a clean sheet at LAFC. The home side had 22 shots, 2.33 xG and a penalty kick, but Guzan wasn’t to be beaten.

Guzan, for much of his career at club and national team levels, has played backup to the likes of Brad Friedel, Shay Given and Tim Howard. Atlanta United came calling in 2017, and Guzan has been the No. 1 since. By the looks of things, the talk of new signing Josh Cohen assuming No. 1 duties has fueled Guzan. The 39-year-old has been nothing short of exceptional this season, and he’s rightly getting praise for his world-class pass to Edwin Mosquera last week that led to Atlanta’s equalizer at New York City FC.

We’re talking about an Atlanta legend here. A championship winner, and the only remaining figure from the 2018 triumph. Keep doubting Brad Guzan – it’s working out well for him so far.

Yeah, he’s still got it:

It was only two months ago that most of us were wondering if Luis Suárez was past it. Everyone was talking about his “noticeable limp” in preseason, surely a testament to his well-documented knee issues. The physical pain had perhaps caught up to him. The Uruguayan legend also seemed, surprisingly, not in sync with Lionel Messi and his other FC Barcelona greats. Something wasn’t quite right.

Well, Suárez has certainly kicked into gear!

The 37-year-old came alive in the Florida Derby, scoring twice against rival Orlando City SC in a 5-0 rout. Then he came off the bench at D.C. United, scoring twice to turn a cagey match into a 3-1 win. The Orlando brace was with Messi on the field, while the other was during Messi’s recovery from a hamstring injury. My colleague Taylor Twellman, on his weekly podcast, laid out an important question.

“Weeks ago I said I'm not sure he can do it for a full season. I'm curious if he can even score 15 goals. I get it: Suárez has been the top scorer seven times in his career. Could there really be an eighth?”

I’m not 100% there yet – there are so many other strong Golden Boot contenders, ranging from Chicho Arango and Giorgos Giakoumakis to Cucho Hernández and Dejan Joveljic. That’s only scratching the surface, too.

But those of us who were doubting Suárez’s physical abilities, did we learn nothing?! Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona – he’s been sensational for some of Europe’s top clubs. And just last year he was named the Best Player and Best Striker in the Brazilian top-flight thanks to 26 goals and 17 assists in 53 appearances. He also led Grêmio to two titles.

As long as Suárez can strap on a pair of boots he’s scoring goals.

Alejandro Bedoya is a Philadelphia Union institution. Sometimes we might lose sight of that, but the do-everything midfielder has been with this club since 2016! He’s right up there in the club record books for appearances, goals and assists. One day, there might just be a statue of Bedoya outside of Subaru Park.

But this past winter, it seemed like his esteemed time on the banks of the Delaware River was coming to an end. Bedoya was out of contract and head coach Jim Curtin was at odds with sporting director Ernst Tanner over whether their longtime captain and former US international would return for another season. These quotes after they exited the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs against FC Cincinnati… spicy!

“I've been on record a million times. Alejandro's bigger than anybody that's ever been at our club, myself included,” Curtin said. “He's bigger than anybody. He should 100% be back. His talk and his play on the field speaks for itself.

“I think anywhere in the world, the head coach would have a say in what's up with this captain,” Curtin added. “I think there was a miscommunication for sure. So we'll see how that plays out.”

A few months passed and it seemed like the chapter had officially closed. Then came the Feb. 1 announcement that Ale was back! He re-upped for the 2024 season and, in addition to serving his on-field role, has a new role as player development and front office specialist. Basically, it means using all his experience and wisdom to help develop younger players in the Union’s development pipeline and aid the business side of the club.

With Bedoya set to turn 37 at the end of April, the move’s already paid off. He’s not an every-game starter anymore, but stepped up with a crucial late equalizer in their 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City. It was no easy finish, either:

How much will Bedoya ultimately play this year? He hit 2,000 minutes all but one season from 2017-23… and the one gap was because of the COVID-shortened year, when Philly won the 2020 Supporters’ Shield. He probably won't reach that bar again, especially as youngsters like Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn and Jesús Bueno continue to develop. But you can rest assured that Bedoya’s not back for a walk in the park. He means business and will give everything to this club.

He’s back!

After leaving Chicago Fire FC, it was all quiet on the Kei Kamara front. Then reports surfaced in late March that he was training with LAFC. Almost 24 hours later, the news went official: One of Major League Soccer’s best-ever goalscorers would play for his 11th team.

There’s some sentimental value at play here, as Los Angeles is Kamara’s adopted American home. He had avoided the LA Galaxy, Chivas USA (RIP) and LAFC… until now. For all his travels near and far, it took over 20 years to return to where the former Sierra Leone international’s incredible story truly blossomed.

Kei turns 40 in September, and with that he holds the title of the oldest player in MLS. And while he’s slowed down some physically, he’s still a force in the air and knows the right play to make. Take El Tráfico last weekend… we were in studio, bemused at Cristian Olivera’s late-game decision to take a shot in the final stages of what would eventually be a 2-1 win. In the very next play, Kei used every bit of his experience and big frame to take the ball to the corner flag, winding down those valuable seconds to help close out the result. That’s what you want from your No. 9 in that situation.

Now, will we see Kei push further up the MLS scoring charts? He’s on 144 goals, one behind tying Landon Donovan for second place (145). Logic says that Kei has a couple of goals left in his boots, especially in late-game situations when LAFC’s lethal counter-attack looks to extend a lead.

When Kei gets there, I can already see it (sorry in advance, Kaylyn 😉). We’re breaking down a game and then it’s a “WE’VE GOT A GOAL!” Maybe as soon as this weekend?!