Apr 18, 2012, 8:15 AM EDT
Mark down Steve Cherundolo as one of the most underappreciated men ever to pull on the U.S. national team shirt.
The man’s international career has stretched 13 years now; that fact alone would top most resumes.
He’s held down “mainstay” chops at right back since 2004, providing a steady and calming defensive presence during the three World Cup qualifying turns. (Cherundolo was a main spoke in the wheel of qualifying for World Cup 2002, although subsequent injuries limited his time internationally over a couple of years.)
His time at Hannover in Germany has also stretched 13 years. So highly respected there, he’s long been a team captain and has humbly acquiesced to the nickname Mayor of Hannover.
Now it seems that Cherundolo, 33, will play a main role in attempting to help guide his country into yet another World Cup. That would be No. 4 – a truly remarkable and unduplicated achievement. (Landon Donovan had a sparing role in the 2002 run-up, but not an essential one.)
There will be calls for Tim Chandler or some other youngster to displace Cherundolo along the way to Brazil 2014. Maybe it will be Eric Lichaj. And perhaps at some point, Jurgen Klinsmann will adjudge that blooding Chandler or Lichaj or someone else along the right will best serve the long-term goals.
Personally, I expect Cherundolo to hold down the position through most of qualifying with the same shrewd defensive positioning gleaned from all those Bundesliga seasons, to provide a steady and dependable offensive push up the right and to supply the 3-5 well-shaped crosses a match.
Plus, when Landon Donovan is stationed along the right, the pair’s chemistry, understanding and ability to combine is as robust as any other pair in the U.S. shirt.
While you consider how a smaller guy playing in the less-glamorous position of right back really has contributed so mightily to the U.S. cause through the years, read a little about his life in Hannover in a piece just produced by U.S. Soccer.
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