Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
When U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann qualified for the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying last October, he probably didn’t think he would have to do it without his veteran right back Steve Cherundolo.
Fast-forward twelve months and Cherundolo is just returning to fitness after his third knee surgery of the calendar year, which has kept him away from the USMNT in the same time span. The Hannover captain and fan favorite made his 300th appearance in the Bundesliga for the club last May and is hoping to add to that total in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ve been training with [Hannover] for two weeks,” Cherundolo told U.S. Soccer in an interview. “There has been some improvement on a day-to-day basis. There are still some things I need to sharpen up on. Passing in tight space where the game gets quick and you have to move fast, those are things you lose over a certain amount of time when you’re off the field. Those are things you have to gain back on a daily basis.
“The next step for me is getting back on the field in a match. There’s only so much you can do in training. Match fitness, match situations and scenarios are very important as well and those are the things I’m missing at this time.”
Cherundolo hasn’t played a competitive match since that 300th appearance in May against Fortuna Dusseldorf, but he could have taken part in the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying matches in June before deciding that he’d be better off letting his body rest after a long time spent rehabbing.
“The biggest reason I took last summer off was to try to get back to 100 percent and to my level of play that I’m used to,” admitted Cherundolo. “It’s one of those sad truths that no athlete wants to admit, but you do get older and things start to hurt and start to wear down. I feel really good now after the successful surgery. I feel we have the problem solved, and I’m getting back to normal strength.”
Despite the injuries, Cherundolo still has his long-term aim on playing for the USA at the World Cup next summer in Brazil. A veteran of the 2002 (though he didn’t play), 2006, and 2010 World Cups, the former Portland Pilot has been a mainstay in the USMNT backline since 2005.
Without his presence in the Hexagonal, Klinsmann went with a number of right back options including Fabian Johnson, Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, and the current choice Brad Evans. However, Cherundolo admits that if he is healthy and can convince the coaches that he can help the team, he has his sights set on being one of the 23 men that jet off to South America next June.
“Anybody who has ever been to a World Cup knows how special it is, how awesome it is,” said Cherundolo. “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.”
What do you think of this interview? Do you see Cherundolo playing for the USMNT next month? Do you feel that Klinsmann would let him return to the squad despite all the time missed due to injury? As of today, would you have Cherundolo on your World Cup squad?
Share your thoughts below.