By IVES GALARCEP
One of the best defenders in U.S. Men’s National Team history called it a career on Wednesday when Steve Cherundolo announced his official retirement from the game at the age of 35.
Cherundolo’s retirement might have come as a surprise to some, but not because he was too young or still at the peak of his game. It came as a bit of a surprise because he had been such a reliable figure for the USMNT for so long that it was easy to take him for granted, even when all the signs were pointing to his time coming to an end.
My latest Goal.com column focuses on Cherundolo’s retirement, and the void it leaves with the USMNT. A void that he himself was worried about leaving behind as he sensed his own career waning.
Cherundolo’s departure leaves the current USMNT set-up without a true natural right back option in the bunch, with Brad Evans and Michael Parkhurst playing different roles for their club teams, and Geoff Cameron recognized as a player who may be playing his third-best position despite being a starting right back in the English Premier League.
All is not lost though. There is a generation of promising talent coming up the pipeline, and while the 2014 World Cup won’t feature any close to Cherundolo’s quality at the position, 2018 and beyond could provide more well-rounded options.
Give my column on Cherundolo a read, and check out a look at the top future USMNT prospects at the right back position:
TOP YOUNG AMERICAN RIGHT BACKS
DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders
We all know about the hair, and the speed, but the 20-year-old sensation is actually showing improvement as a defender to go with his promising attacking qualities. He boasts tools and marketability, but most importantly, he is humble and level-headed and has the kind of poise that should help him deal with the growing expectations he is facing.
Kofi Sarkodie, Houston Dynamo
The 22-year old is a more seasoned defender than Yedlin at the moment, but he has some good attacking qualities to go with the defensive attributes. Remains a bit underrated, but has blossomed into one of the better fullbacks in MLS.
Eric Miller, Montreal Impact
The rookie defender was on the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team last summer, and has stepped into a starting role for Montreal. The 21-year old doesn’t have the speed of the aforementioned right backs, but he is technical, versatile and boasts good size.
Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas
The youngest starting defender in MLS, the 18-year-old Acosta has picked up where he left off late in 2013 as the starting right back for FC Dallas. A highly-regarded youth national team prospect, Acosta is gaining valuable experience at a young age, and is already showing impressive qualities, including confidence on the ball.
Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake
Highly-skilled converted midfielder has been adapting to right back since playing for the U.S. youth national teams. Now a Homegrown Player for RSL, he is being groomed to eventually take over for Tony Beltran, and could develop into a special attacking fullback.
Oscar Sorto, LA Galaxy
Hasn’t broken through as a starter yet, but the former U.S. Under-20 pool player is a highly-regarded Homegrown Player who is seen as the future of the position for the Galaxy.
John Kenneth Hilton, Chivas USA
SBI rarely trumpets the super young youth prospects, but when you generate as much buzz as Hilton has, we can make an exception. Boasting blazing speed for his age, and technical quality better than some players much older, the player known in Southern California youth ranks as “Xuxuh” (pronounced shoo-shoo) is already turning heads of European scouts (and earned him a trial with Manchester City’s youth setup). Tuck this name away for now. He could be speeding around in a USMNT uniform eight years from now in Qatar (or wherever the 2022 World Cup might wind up).
What do you think of Cherundolo’s departure? Consider him the best USMNT right back of all time? Which of the young right back prospects do you see emerging as a national team starter?
Share your thoughts below.