VfB Stuttgart have revealed former U.S. international Steve Cherundolo as one of Tayfun Korkut’s assistant coaches. The recently promoted club fired Hannes Wolf after a string of bad results, believing that new blood would help avoid a relegation fight.
Cherundolo, 38, spent his entire playing and coaching career with Hannover 96 and recently managed the club’s U-17 academy side. Affectionately known as the “Mayor of Hannover”, he made 370 league appearances and captained Die Roten before retiring due to a knee injury.
What would lead the ex-one-club man to Stuttgart? In 2014, Cherundolo – or “Dolo” to American fans – was promoted from youth coach to an assistant position by Korkut, who managed Hannover from 2013 through 2015.
The former national team fullback has long been considered someone with a potentially important coaching future ahead of him. While two Americans have already managed clubs in top leagues (David Wagner at Huddersfield Town and Bob Bradley at Swansea City), Cherundolo could be next to join that select group. Unlike some other Americans, it’s doubtful his ascendancy would face any real or perceived push back due the respect he earned during his playing career in Germany.
Recently, Cherundolo told Jeff Carlisle of ESPN FC that he never felt any particular anti-American stigma while overseas:
ESPN FC: Oftentimes you hear about a stigma being attached to being an American player in Europe. To what extent does that still exist and have you encountered that a little bit as a coach?
SC: No, and I never really felt that as a player, either. To me, there’s a general understanding -- and that’s just the way the leagues work here -- and that is for the sporting director or the manager, it’s his job to replace you as soon as you sign a contract. I think if you understand that as a player it’s a business -- it’s a cutthroat business and it’s never personal -- and if you perform well, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, the doors will be wide open.
If you’re not performing at the highest level, then of course I can see how some players interpret that as being, “Oh they don’t like me because I’m American.” And I haven’t had that feeling yet as a coach, nor did I have that feeling as a player.
According to the same interview, the 38-year old Cherundolo is set to begin his pro license courses this year and should be eligible to manage a club in 2019. Where will this future club be located? According to an interview with Four Four Two, he’d like to coach “in the German Bundesliga… in MLS, [or] who knows where some day, maybe some role in US soccer.”
With the experience gained at a new club (there’s something to be said about “leaving home” in order to broaden one’s horizons) and additional reps as an assistant at a top division club, it’s not difficult to imagine some Sporting Director rolling the dice on the experienced former player. Wherever Cherundolo’s future leads, what matters right now is Stuttgart’s fight to remain in the Bundesliga. Saturday’s fixture against similarly almost-in-the-relegation-zone pressured Wolfsburg is followed by difficult matches against Mönchengladbach and Augsburg, both of whom are challenging for Europa League spots.