On Wednesday afternoon, Hannover 96 and USMNT right back Steve Cherundolo officially announced his retirement from soccer, which was spurred on by persistent knee injuries. Although Cherundolo has not suited up for the USMNT since October of 2012, there is little doubting that the 35-year-old’s retirement marks the end of an era for the Americans.
Cherundolo was a force at right back for the USMNT between 1999 and 2012, as he appeared in 87 official matches, was a part of three World Cup teams and won the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Along the way the right back epitomized all that made the USMNT successful, as he was never the quickest or most technically skilled player, but always gave 110 percent for his team. Alongside the likes of Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit he formed a core of players that were moderately successful yet tended to succumb against the best sides in the world because of an inability to take the initiative with the ball.
Things have changed radically since Cherundolo was phased out of the lineup, as Jurgen Klinsmann has headed a revolution of wide open play, encouragement of going forward offensively and the integration of young players. Since Cherundolo last played the USMNT has a 21-4-6 record, picking up the CONCACAF Gold Cup and victories against Mexico, Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina along the way.
Furthermore, the likes of Aron Johansson, John Anthony Brooks, Terrence Boyd, Fabian Johnson, Alfredo Morales, Joe Corona and most recently Julian Green have all chosen to play for the USMNT ahead of other nations. These additions have all added highly skilled and youthful players to a lineup that once relied on hard wok to win games and now has an opportunity to take on the best in the world head on.
The retirement of Cherundolo will obviously be a sad day for USMNT followers, but it truly does signal oncoming days of bigger and better things. Gone are the days when the USMNT relied on an entirely U.S. born squad to grind out results and reign over CONCACAF, and in are the days of dual-nationals choosing to play for a team that can genuinely match up against the best in the world.