Welcome Back - Stevie C
Welcome back – But is it time to go?
Sorry for the long gap in between posts. It won’t happen again.
Lately, we’ve been thinking about the future of Steve Cherundolo. After leaving the University of Portland in 1999, the 27 year-old American right back took a chance by starting his professional career in Germany and can safely call the move a success. In that time, the trajectory of his career has followed that of his club, Hannover 96. They have seen their stature rise from that of a modest 2.Bundesliga (German 2nd division) outfit – the type that would take a chance on a college sophomore from the American west – to an established Bundesliga club. ‘Dolo, (as Cherundulo is known in US Soccer circles) got in at the ground floor and is one of the architects of the club’s golden age.
The San Diego native took little time acclimating himself to his new surroundings. In less than a season, he won a place in the Hannover starting XI. Five years later, the classy defender is a near automatic selection in the lineup for both club and country. On this side of the Atlantic, observers have noted his progression whenever he returns to don the national team jersey. Always a steady defender, Cherundolo’s professional development has seen him add a level of comfort and confidence on the ball that coaches worldwide covet in their outside backs. Barring injury, he will start at right back for the United States in their opening match of World Cup 2006 against the Czech Republic.
Which brings us to the point of today’s post: Is it time for Steve Cherundolo to move on?
Hannover’s slow start to the 05-06 season had club directors fearing a season-long struggle with relegation, so they fired manager Ewald Lienen in November, replacing him with Peter Neururer. They have not lost since Oct. 30, a 4-1 drubbing loss to Arminia Biefeld and their 10 game unbeaten run has the city dreaming of a place in next year’s UEFA Cup. Their home stadium was refurbished ahead of this summer’s world cup, providing the team with the kind of match-day revenue that will help them cement a position in the heights of the German game.
If Hannover finish in the top five, they will win a place in European competition. Cherundolo will surely stick around to enjoy such fruit. But the smart money says they will not be able to sustain the momentum and their current form may represent the apex of their fortunes. Though the squad is full of unity and industry, they lack the firepower in the attack to break down the defenses of Germany’s elite teams. There is not enough talent to realistically challenge for the Bundesliga title. Eventually, a bigger club (either from Germany or abroad) will come calling for the experienced American fullback.
Cherundolo has stated publicly that is 100% committed to Hannover, but the lure of European football and million dollar salaries are enough to tempt the most loyal of servants. There were rumors that Schalke 04 were tracking him last year, but the man who first brought Cherundolo to Germany, is no longer their manager. New talk of interest from abroad (England being the most likely destination) persists and it seems that a move from Hannover is inevitable, though not imminent.
Soccerology says that consistent European competition is the next logical step in Dolo’s development. As a 26 year-old defender with over 100 games worth of top-flight experience and 31 caps, he has all the necessary qualifications of being a world-class fullback. By lining up against Europe’s most potent attacks, he will improve as a player and fulfill national team coach Bruce Arena’s (circa 2000) prediction of being the USA starting right back for the “next decade.”