“Solid and, at times, unspectacular” described Steve Cherundolo’s professional career. The American international, who won 87 caps for the US Men’s National Team and played in three World Cups, retired Wednesday after persistent knee problems robbed him of an ability to feature in a fourth World Cup this summer.
Often under-appreciated by fans in the United States perhaps because he never played club soccer domestically, the right-back was a model professional and set a longevity record for an American at one European club. His Hannover 96 career began in 1999, where he spent 15 seasons with the club — a remarkable run by any standard.
The right-back established himself as a regular for Hannover during the 2000-01 Bundesliga campaign and quickly emerged on USMNT manager Bruce Arena’s radar. His breakthrough was the 2001-2002 season when he featured in every Bundesliga2 match, and helped spearhead his club’s promotion to the German top flight. Making the 2002 World Cup squad, Cherundolo served as cover for Tony Sanneh who also played in Germany and had a spectacular tournament. Returning to Hannover after the US’ deep run that summer, the player established himself as a top-tier full back attracting interest from other clubs. In 2005, Hannover agreed to sell Cherundolo to Bolton in the Premier League, but the player rejected the move.
By the time the 2006 and 2010 World Cups rolled around, Cherundolo was one of the top Americans playing his trade. At the same time, he continued his stellar play for Hannover, eventually captaining the side to consecutive qualifications for European competition.
Closing the book on his Hannover career this week, the American featured in 423 first team matches for the Saxony club. This is a record that no American has matched with a single club in any league globally.
“Dolo” had 15 years of unparalleled club success as an American player at a single European club. Cherundolo will long stand as a model of excellence, an example of what young American players can aspire to be. He took the difficult decision at a young age to challenge himself in Europe rather than staying in his comfort zone in the United States domestic setup. In time, he became a legend of both club and country.
Nobody did it better.