A look at Cherundolo’s retirement, and the void it leaves at the USMNT right back position

Steve Cherundolo

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.

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93 Responses to A look at Cherundolo’s retirement, and the void it leaves at the USMNT right back position

  1. Jack Del says:

    Void it leaves?

    He hasn’t played for nearly 2 years.

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      He missed the Hex, and the team was mixing and matching in that spot through the hex, so you call it two years, but it’s really been one year of actual meaningful time (unless you think him missing a January friendly and Ukraine friendly count as a full year.

    • downintexas says:

      I think we were all hoping he would make a full recovery and we would not have to rely heavily on our current options.

      • QuakerOtis says:

        I understand that Dolo retiring is as good a reason as any to look at our right back prospects, but I’m with Jack Del on this one. Good piece and all, but, if we were pinning our hopes on a 35yo with bad knees… the “void” has been there.

  2. malkin says:

    “Cherundolo became such a fixture on the national team that he really wound up being taken for granted by U.S. national team fans who weren’t exposed much to his club success in Germany and might not have appreciated his quality until the 2010 World Cup, when he opened eyes by shutting down England’s James Milner and forced England manager Fabio Capello into a rare first-half substitution because Cherundolo was dominating the English winger so thoroughly.”

    That about sums it up. Congrats on a great career, Mr. Mayor.

    • Micronesia Justin says:

      Seriously so underrated. Couldn’t an argument be made for best European career for an American? Not that is matters – I’ll probably regret bringing it up. I’ll have a drink for Dolo tonight.

  3. argh says:

    Lichaj if healthy otherwise Cameron

    • Ryan says:

      A championship full back coming off an injury over a premiership full back coming off a career year?

      • Nick F says:

        I was assuming that he would put Cameron somewhere else in the starting lineup if Lichaj was healthy….I still think Cameron is even better at CB or CDM.

        • Jesse D says:

          Cameron has looked pretty bad and CB the last couple times I’ve seen him there. The problem is CB is a little less about physical capabilities and a little more about instinct. Cameron doesn’t anticipate rebounds very well. Which leaves him watching as opposing attackers tap in easy finishes.

        • Ron Mexico says:

          Pretty sure nobody saw that, argh / “Nick F” ;)

  4. argh says:

    Cherundolo

    MVP of the USMNT roster team in South Africa

    well okay he was no 2. as Donovan had the no.1 spot

    why is Cherundolo so underrated?

    • broadsthooligans says:

      Because he doesn’t score goals. Who are the most recognized players at his position in the world? Alves? Maicon? Players like Dolo are great and the fans who follow them can see it. This is why the US and Hannover saw him as so important to their success and why he stuck around for so long with both teams, but goals and stepovers make stars. Dolo added a lot going forward, but it was always gonna be hard to make a primarily defensive fullback into a star in a country without a general indepth understanding of the sport.

      • patrick says:

        When you do your job so well that no one has to think about it, or you, you become underrated.

        Also, because he started in Europe before twitter/ many blogs etc and didn’t transfer, he missed a lot of the “hype”.

    • Ali Dia says:

      I echo the above, and would add that unless a full-back is a significant part of the attack, the only times you ever really notice their performance are generally when they are getting hosed. Since this basically never happened to Cherundolo, he kinda got taken for granted for way too long.

      Fittingly (if not appropriately), Cherundolo has been noticed most by the void he leaves behind when he isn’t there, such as during fruitless search for a full-time replacement during WC qualifying, or during the 2011 Gold Cup final — seriously, how many times have you ever seen a big match swayed so radically by an injury a defensive full back? Watching our soft underbelly get exposed time and time again during the second half was about the least fun I’ve had as a USMNT fan (although the sea of Mexican supporters around us sure seemed to enjoy it).

      Steve’s retirement will be felt for years to come because really, how often can you expect guys like him to come along? You’re lucky when it does. If anything, I hope that the guys in the younger group have taken notice and can look to him as a model of professionalism, skill, and consistency. I don’t know what or where his longer-term plans for retirement look like — Hannover obviously have plans for him at the moment. But if, at some point, he were to get involved somewhere in the USMNT setup, I would think he would be an excellent addition.

  5. Dennis says:

    I was impressed by Yedlin in the TFC game. Still for me Cameron is the starting RB with Evans the first backup. Of course, young players can make big strides in a short time so it is hard to dismiss any of Sarkodie, Miller and Acosta, of the 3, Acosta is probably the one who is still growing and will likely improve the fastest.

    JK could call in Evans and 2 or even 3 of Yedlin, Sarkodie, Miller and Acosta into the Mexico camp to help sort out the order.

    • malkin says:

      None of top young guys will be called into the Mexico camp other than maybe Yedlin, and even if he is, it’s not going to be for a place in Brazil.

      • malkin says:

        to clarify, by “top young guys” I meant to say “young guys listed up top”, or alternatively “top young right backs”

    • Dman says:

      Yedlin looked great in that TFC game. I am not sure if he is ready for Ghana, Portugal, and Germany yet, but he has tons of potential.

  6. slowleftarm says:

    I had never heard of John Kenneth Hilton. Interesting, but safe to say that he’s not an immediate solution.

    In the short-term, there’s no issue as long as Cameron stays healthy. He’s playing every week in the Premier League and has done an excellent job there this season. JK will probably try to prove how smart he is by playing Evans or someone else out of position there and moving Cameron somewhere else too. Or he’ll unearth some Germerican and everyone will immediately declare him better than anyone else in the pool.

    • Jeff Carter says:

      I’m too lazy to look it up, but there’s a video of his training habits, impressive stuff. I think he’s eligible to play at least another country or two?

      • user222 says:

        Xuxuh already trains like a pro, at 13 yrs old, his passion and desire for the game is what sets him apart. He should have plenty of experience when Qatar rolls around.
        Im more impressed that he is a natural left-footer and plays RB without any problems, it helps him cut back inside and shoot with his left foot… though he can shoot with both feet equally

        His dad is American, his mother is Brazilian…

        • Bongwater says:

          Yeah I dunno– talking about 13 year olds is always a pretty odd concept in the context of future achievement. But I just don’t know how I get comfortable with the upside of a an upstart named “Xixuh” over a more classic name in the established American tradition, such as “John Kenneth Hilton”…

          Wait… we are talking about serial killers, right?

    • Drew11 says:

      That’s probably because he’s like 13 years old. LOL

    • downintexas says:

      He is only 12 so he has a long way to go. Best of luck to him.

  7. Arthur says:

    The void he left at right back is nothing new. We haven’t had the benefit of his services for quite some time now, and I think Cameron is a viable option there. I’m far more concerned about our other three backline positions.

  8. milbo says:

    Since he hasn’t played for the nats I would have been surprised to see him in Brazil anyway.. Less of a crisis more of and opportunity for the other candidates to step up. 35 y o?

    • dude says:

      you mean he hasn’t played for the nats in a while? because that sounds really stupid just lookin at it

      • milbo says:

        Since he’s been hobbled -for awhile- by injury, Klinsmann began grooming other players to fill his space.. he wasn’t expected to be in brazil. This is just another non-issue article

      • milbo says:

        Watch for a future Ives column wondering why Brad Evans has made the Brazil squad –lolz

  9. Alecko says:

    (or wherever the 2022 World Cup might wind up).

    hmmmm. When will you write about this conjecture?

  10. downintexas says:

    Well we have some promising young players, hopefully one pans out for the national level.

  11. Tony in Quakeland says:

    I was at the Sounders- TFC (my first in Seattle) so I got a chance to watch Yedlin nearly a year after seeing him in San Jose. I have been championing him here and everywhere the past year and I left the game thinking he is already the best fullback in the pool. Even if he makes a mistake he has incredible make up speed and he never panics. The guy is good. He would be on my plane to Brazil.

    • Drew11 says:

      Yedlin is not Nat ready based on camp cupcake. He will greatly benefit from some friendlies next year and then the Gold Cup. He should be a solid first 11 choice by the time the 2018 qualies roll around.

      • Mark says:

        I think you mean “Yedlin is not ready based on an 18 minute substitute appearance in his first international game after a month long camp that all players said was one of the most difficult months of their life”.

        If you’re going to judge a normal starter off an 18 minute sub appearance, at least be honest about it. It’s been made clear according to everyone interviewed that he was very impressive in “camp cupcake”.

        • KingGoogleyEye says:

          You should add that those 18 minutes were spent playing with a squad of USMNT veterans who looked awful.

          It seems that people forget that soccer is a team sport: it’s hard to shine when the rest of your team is stuck in the mud.

      • Todd Marsch says:

        I don’t know. I agree more with Drew11 here. He seemed really jittery and passed to the Koreans more often than not. I’d be willing to give him another shot in one or more of the upcoming friendlies to see if that was just first game nerves, since we are so thin at that position, but based on the evidence that we normal fans have seen, it’s hard to be optimistic that he can contribute right now.

        • Mark says:

          I’m not arguing that. Didn’t play well, but making a statement of readiness based off that is foolish. If we declared every player who was jittery in their first national team cap as “not ready” no one would ever be ready.

          • Drew11 says:

            It’s not a foolish opinion because those 18 minutes are his entire MNT body of work at this point.

            I’ve been a fan of Yedlin since he bombed in that goal against Tigres last year. But it seems time is running out this cycle for him. Great prospect for 2018, though.

            • milkshake of despair says:

              Well, Green has absolutely zero minutes and he’s on the plane according to many. But only ones persons opinion matters – Klinsi. So Yedlin has only to impress him, not you.

    • solles says:

      have to disagree, you can see the potential but he is so raw and so often out of control. Honestly I think he’s overrated, probably because he has the sounders fanbase fanboying him up.

  12. Drew11 says:

    Kevin Ellis has been a nice surprise so far this year. No idea if he is USMNT quality.

    • brian I says:

      Can be a solid mls player but after watching him last night, I don’t see him as a USMNT level player. To be fair though, even Besler and Zusi didn’t look good last night.

  13. Brew says:

    Ives

    I still think one of the biggest mistakes JK has made in the last 12 months was not pursuing Steven Beitashour hard enough. If Beitashour had chosen the US over Iran he for sure would be in the mix. I’m not saying he would be our starter in Brazil but he would be in the top 3 of the list above. Mean while he’s off to Brazil for Iran and were digging through more duel birth certificates.

    • Mark says:

      Beitashour is 27. The fact that he’d only be top 3 on the above list should clue you into why he isn’t involved in the USMNT.

      • chuck says:

        Should have pursued Gotoku Sakai. Heck, he IS German, wtf Klinsi?

        • Increase0 says:

          I know you are joking but I had no Idea he was eligible. Which apparently he is. He is quite good from what I understand. But he was obviously gunna play for Japan. Its so bizarre how many random players could play for the US.

        • user222 says:

          nicknamed by his fans… der “Sushi Bomber”…

          very good player…

  14. James says:

    First off, I’m very sad to see Dolo go. Truly one of the best Americans to play the game, and a great ambassador abroad.

    Looking at the list Ives put together, it’s clear that MLS is really contributing to young Americans’ development. All those guys have bright futures and will have to duke it out for a spot on the USMNT. Not long ago we pinned our hopes on one solid player at each (well, most) positions, and heaven forbid they get injured.

    4 years from now, I suspect those not boarding the plane to Russia will be an impressive list. Exciting stuff.

  15. phswimmer says:

    Revs fans everywhere shake their heads when these lists leave off Andrew Farrell. Yes his better position may be at CB, but he held down the RB position all of last year quite admirably.

    He wasn’t in the Youth National team setup and that really seems to be the only reason he hasn’t bee called into camps so far.

  16. Jim campbell says:

    Sheanon Williams

    • CorkSoccer says:

      +1 Cannot believe he is not on the list.

      • D says:

        Seriously. Was waiting and looking for his name. I personally always had issues with his occasionally lax defending, but it’s difficult to truly argue there’s a better RB in MLS.
        Maybe too old at this point and Hack worth hasn’t helped his development, but Porter had him in camp in 2012 and if JK had started bringing him in, he could have been developed into an international force.
        Sarkodie is so overrated.
        Yedlin is too far away.

  17. Alex H says:

    If this Oscar Sorto kid is any good the Galaxy should put him in the lineup immediately. They are going to suck with the current line up so put this kid in at RB, move AJ centrally and put Leonardo out of his misery. Once Dunnivant gets back they might actually have a decent back 4 and an opportunity to not crash and burn as they surely will if nothing changes.

  18. Pep Guardiola says:

    Timmy Chandler anyone?

    • Expat4455 says:

      His injury is pretty bad, he is out for the complete Bundesliga season.

    • slowleftarm says:

      No thanks. He’s injured and won’t be back in time for Brazil but I’m thinking/hoping he’s done with the USMNT. He’s shown pretty much zero commitment after JK spent two years begging him to choose the US.

  19. Dan says:

    we need Timmy Chandler at right back!

  20. MiamiAl says:

    Nobody thinks Sean Franklin can do the job?

  21. Chris Lane says:

    What about the Union’s Sheanon Williams? You have said good things about him in the past, so why isn’t he even mentioned?

  22. Dace says:

    Cam is obviously first choice now barring any major injuries to our CB pool, and I think that Evans will be included in Brazil, but only because he’s been playing there so frequently for the Nats.

    Chandler, Yedlin, Farrell and Acosta are all going to be gunning for that starting spot in 2018, though it would still be Cam’s to lose.

  23. user222 says:

    Did Jurgen ever call Marwell Winn to any camp?

    He was supposed to be the shit… he played bad for Bradley but so did Jonathan Bornstein.

    I know Winn’s got all that world class speed but what about his overall play? anybody?

  24. Brad C says:

    If we had a decent LB, we could put F Johnson at RB. But with FJ at LB and Chandler out of the picture, the best option is Cameron at RB. Heck, he’s playing in that position for an EPL side. Arguably our best player in Europe now….

  25. Brett says:

    “The void”? Who exactly was counting on Stevie C. to play again in a US jersey?

    • Expat4455 says:

      Looks like everyone but you were, Brett.

      • solles says:

        totally on board with you Brett, Dolo hasnt been a factor for the USA for a long time, not sure why everyone’s so surprised.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Who was counting on Steve?

      A year ago: everyone.
      Six months ago: almost everyone.

      Yes, it’s a void that over the last several months has become more and more apparent. This article’s timeliness has everything to do with Steve’s official announcement and nothing to do with USMNT fans only waking up to the void this morning.

      • Expat4455 says:

        solles is just being childish, and brett…………well he is just being brett.

      • Brett says:

        Dude has been on the shelf for 2 years. I can’t even remember his last performance in a USA shirt, that’s how long ago it was.

        I called it after he reinjured it the first time. Once that soft tissue goes, it goes. Your body does not regenerate it as anything but scar tissue. I saw the same thing when Holden reinjured his knee after his first comeback attempt. I’ve seen those ligament injuries in just about every sport and they’re career killers.

        This is like saying that we were counting on Stu, or Charlie Davies, or any other of a hundred players who got hurt and looked like long-shots to recover.

  26. SJ says:

    Jordan Allen is being groomed for Tony Beltran’s spot?!?! True, he played RB at UVA. Every appearance for RSL has been in the midfield or up top.

  27. solles says:

    Lets be honest about this: the USA has long since moved on from Dolo, out of necessity. Big miss for sure but its not like this hasnt been pretty well accepted as reality for some time.

  28. Elber Galarga says:

    Xuxuh? Did Ives go into a rant on the podcast about hyping this kid up a few months ago. Maybe he is actually pretty good, since Ives is name dropping this kid. Not sure if it was this article that set it off.

    link to mlssoccer.com

  29. D says:

    I’ve always hated how the US youth development undervalued and still does the outside back position.
    Any young player with some skill and good speed is groomed as a fwd regardless.
    In college we put some of our most talented players at RB and treated the position as an attacking position.

    I give props to Seattle for signing Yedlin as a HG RB and keeping him as a RB (as opposed to like LA w/ Franklin)

    • flagermunsen says:

      This is an interesting point. I have many years coaching kids in the 14-17 age range. Many have the tools to be outstanding RBs and LBs. However, it’s very hard to convince them and their parents that playing one of these positions is not the equivalent of Right Field in Little League. It’s too bad, because the whole world is crying out for outside backs that have some attacking skill plus have the ability to man mark when isolated on the flanks. There are kids who could reach a high level if they embraced one of these positions.

  30. Fredo says:

    Cheers to you ‘Dolo!

  31. MikeG says:

    Cherundolo,

    Wow. You represented yourself very well for the San Diego area, Hannover, and your country. Thank you for everything. I hope you stay involved with soccer whether it is in the Bundesliga, MLS, USMNT, or wherever. Maybe coaching?

  32. Ryan says:

    He was a good player, and proved to be valuable to the US program when he played, but I’m not nearly as sold on his merit as some other people seem to be. He never won me over as THE right back for the US. So I definitely wouldn’t cast my vote for him as best right back of all-time for the USMNT.

    • Brett says:

      Defensively, I’d rate his effectiveness at the higher end of the scale. He was dogged, determined, knew how to anticipate passes and runs and was willing to get stuck in.

      In attack, he was hit or miss most of the time. He might deliver a few pinpoint crosses a game, but for all that he was always willing to overlap and make unselfish runs to open space. He and Donovan were quite a pair on that right wing at their collective height.

      I thought, for a moment, that Spector had surpassed him. Not quite sure how his international career tanked so quickly.

  33. Felix says:

    I was afraid Yedlin was going to turn into the RB version of Edgar Castillo, slight “defender” who was great going forward but scary in defense.
    But you can see the improvement in his defensive abilities. Plus he has a good work rate, I think Klinnsmann will push him into the conversation after the WC.

  34. Herschel Skywalker says:

    Why did Ives only list MLS rookies rather than immediate solutions, or at least short term fixes? Some of these, like Lichaj, are young enough to be around for a while. Lichaj is only like 25, Spector is 27 or 28 maybe, like Cameron. These may not be the “wing backs ” that JK is looking for, but they are certainly serviceable right backs who actually have played that position in way better leagues than MLS. Chandler is young as well regardless of his commitment issues. I understand if the article had limited itself to long term options only playing in MLS, but to leave out actual right backs in other leagues who could fill in over the next few years in an article purporting to be considering options to replace Dolo seems pretty myopic.

  35. Bean says:

    I’m happy to see Kofie Sarkodie in the conversation, and agree that he is a bit underrated. I’ve watched him develop into a strong defender that is good going forward, is good at whipping in crosses, and is strong enough to fall back, and defend against attackers. His vision, positioning, and reaction speeds have been amazing at times. I’d like to see him come in to the camp and try at the international level.

  36. Bean says:

    With players coming up like Sarkodie, and Yedlin, I think the position is in good hands for the future.