Steve Cherundolo's career is over at the age of 35. Knee injuries have finally taken his career and the United States and Hannover right back has called it quits after 15 spectacular years, but he will not be leaving the sport. Instead, he will move straight onto the Hannover coaching staff.
Cherundolo played his entire career for Hannover, joining them in 1999 and setting a club record with 302 appearances in the Bundesliga. He served as the club's captain and was a fan favorite, making his move to the coaching staff a natural one.
But while Cherundolo was playing his club ball in Germany, he was also regularly flying back across the Atlantic to play for the U.S. He made his first appearance for the Americans in 1999 and registered 87 caps in his career, including three World Cups.
It was just four years ago that Cherundolo was a shining star for the U.S. at the World Cup. He was arguably the Americans' best player in South Africa at the age of 31 and it raised hopes that he could defy Father Time long enough to shine again in Brazil, but it was not to be. His knees got the best of him instead.
In addition to being arguably the best right back in U.S. history, Cherundolo was also the consummate professional and a leader for the Americans. He wasn't the U.S. captain, but he when players or coaches were asked about team leaders, his name always came up. A steady, if quiet figure at the back, Cherundolo was one of the first Americans to make the jump to Europe, excel in one of the world's biggest leagues and become a mainstay across the pond. He was a leader, on the team, off the team and in U.S. soccer history.
The U.S. has struggled to replace Cherundolo in recent years, with Timothy Chandler not working out (and he will be out for the rest of the Nurnberg season through injury, ruling him out of the World Cup), Eric Lichaj never breaking through and Geoff Cameron proving more suited to the center internationally. Brad Evans has taken the position, for now, while any hopes that DeAndre Yedlin can become the next U.S. right back icon are probably more suited for the following World Cup cycle.
As the U.S. continues to sort out its right back spot, it only makes it more obvious how special Cherundolo was. He was as dependable as they come and at a position where the U.S. has long had trouble. He was shining not just domestically, but in Europe, at a time when Americans just didn't do that. He was an icon, and now he is gone.
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