On Wednesday, the soccer world said goodbye to one of the best defenders in USMNT history. Steve Cherundolo announced his retirement from soccer at the age of 35 due to persistent knee injuries that kept him off the U.S. roster for the past two years.
Cherundolo will finish his current season with Bundesliga club Hannover then hang up his cleats. He has been the captain for his club for 15 years and holds the club record with 302 appearances.
Cherundolo played right back for the USMNT from 1999-2012. He made 87 appearances with 83 starts and recorded two goals. He played in three world cups and won the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Cherundolo was also a finalist for U.S. Soccer Player of the Year in both 2010 and 2011. He was a true right back for the U.S. and his retirement marks an end of an era for soccer fans.
The new era for the U.S. is reeling in dual-national players, rather than relying on U.S. born players for success. Dual-national players bring a whole different perspective to the game. The have experience playing overseas where soccer really strives. European, Spanish, or South American born players that have the option of representing the USMNT nationally is what U.S. soccer really needs. These players can up the play in training camp and bring more hype around U.S. soccer. The U.S. way of playing soccer will not win the world cup, but bringing dual-national players to the U.S. brings that style of soccer too. For example, the recent addition of Julian Green to the USMNT. Green is a German-American player who chose to wear the stars and stripes for the world cup, and he can bring the German style of soccer to America. Cherundolo’s retirement brought about this new era, which is much needed for the Americans.
His retirement may have been an end of an era, but it also brings up a problem for the USMNT going into the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Cherundolo’s retirement from soccer leaves a void in the American’s defense. Cherundolo was the best defender the Americans had, and his absence is an obvious problem for the USMNT. With his absence, the Americans have relied heavily on goalkeeper Tim Howard and it has shown with the recent lost to Ukraine. This void gives a chance for Jürgen Klinsmann to fill it, but he is doing it the wrong way. Klinsmann is trying to convert other players into a right back and it has not been working. Klinsmann has replaced Cherundolo with Brad Evans or Geoff Cameron, but they both are not natural right backs. Evans and Cameron both play different positions with their club teams, and Klinsmann is asking a lot from them at the national level. He is asking them to defend the best players in the world, and to join the attack when the U.S. is on offense. Instead of converting payers into defenders, Klinsmann should be giving younger players who are right backs a chance to train with the USMNT. With no true right backs, the USMNT will be in trouble come group stage in the world cup because they are going up against Cristiano Ronaldo and the strong offense of both Germany and Ghana.
Cherundolo’s retirement from soccer marks the beginning of a new and exciting era for soccer fans, but it also arises many problems for the USMNT back line.