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U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo nearing a return to the field for Hannover

Oct 23, 2013, 6:25 PM EDT

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Think for a second how much a healthy Steve Cherundolo would improve the wobbly outside back position for the United States national team.

Fabian Johnson started at right back last month as the United States clinched its spot in Brazil against Mexico. Johnson was OK … but he’s not a right back. He’s really a left back or, probably even better, a left midfielder. But Johnson manned the right back position that day because … well, obviously, the coaching staff adjudged that the best option.

DaMarcus Beasley is holding his own at left back. But is “holding your own” what a team really needs going into a World Cup? Probably not.

If Cherundolo can get completely healthy and layer in the requisite sharpness, he stabilizes the right while Johnson becomes an option on the left – and other guys starting at right back find their truer international level as backups.

(MORE: U.S. roster examinations … which defenders are going to Brazil?)

Well, Cherundolo is getting closer. He’s been training for two weeks now at Hannover and may get back on the field soon.

The longtime incumbent at U.S. right back, now 34 years old, talks about his injury struggles (going on for almost 12 months now, off and on) and about getting back onto Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar in a Q&A with U.S. Soccer.

Remember, Cherundolo talked to Klinsmann and the U.S. coaching staff early last summer, asking to be excused from World Cup qualifier and potential Gold Cup duty to heal up. It sounds like that was the best move for all.

Still, Cherundolo knows that getting back into the national team is no slam dunk, and that public discussion of it needs careful management. His words seem carefully selected, because Cherundolo understands how he could come across, presumptuous, appearing to dismiss how other guys were there during a big stretch of the qualifying campaign, getting the job done.

Anybody who has ever been to a World Cup knows how special it is, how awesome it is. If that’s something I have a chance to participate in, if I can help the team and the coaching staff deems me that guy who can help either on the field or off the field then I would love to go to Brazil. It’s definitely a goal of mine and if I can stay healthy it’s something I can achieve as well.”

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