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The few veterans we seem to have left on this team will need to step it up and keep the youthful core from collapsing in 2013.
Ben and myself called what Oscar Pareja and Paul Bravo did to this team over the off-season a 'youth revolution' at one point, and it's a pretty apt way of putting it. Out went a lot of the old -- and we mean old -- guard, guys like Tyrone Marshall, Omar Cummings, Conor Casey, Scott Palguta, Luis Zapata.
There were a ton of guys who were in their late 20's and 30's on this team after Gary Smith was jettisoned, and that didn't change much after one year of Pareja. In fact, the additions of Zapata and Jaime Castrillon kept the whole thing going. (Let's not get started on Edu.)
This time around, the team went out and nabbed all the young talent that they could find. Between the three draft picks, Kevin Harbottle, Charles Eloundou and Dillon Serna, we got a big ol' infusion of guys under the age of 24. Even most of the veterans they picked up -- Nick LaBrocca, Nathan Sturgis, Atiba Harris, Diego Calderon -- are in their mid to late 20's rather than their early 30's like your average Gary Smith pick-up was. (LaBrocca was originally going to be the even younger Eric Avila as well, if you'll recall!)
Other than Edson Buddle, it's been a proverbial cleansing diet of the age that the team had been carrying the past few seasons.
Of course, there's a payoff for getting nothing but young guns on your team. (The Colorado Avalanche fans among us will know this one by heart from the past few years.) You get a lot more vibrancy and stamina, plus plenty of room for growth. However, you also get a lot less experience on the pitch, perhaps a less steady game and a lot less consistency from all of the kids being on the field together, especially if most of them haven't played with each other before.
We're going to be relying on a very, very small group of guys who have been here a long time for that steadiness if the team is going to accomplish much this year instead of a -- statistically, at least -- repeat of last year's disaster. Namely, we'll need leadership and guidance from Pablo Mastroeni, Hendry Thomas and Drew Moor, to name probably the most important three. (Maybe Buddle as well if we're looking for someone to lead the attack by example.)
Pablo, of course, will be the name to watch. Losing him made the team crumble mentally last season, I can't imagine that it would be much better with a team that is, on average, probably several years younger.