Dubbed the “Mayor of Hannover” thanks to playing the entirety of his 15-year career with German side Hannover 96, the three-time World Cup veteran MNT defender retired in 2014 as the club’s leader in Bundesliga appearances with 300. When he finally hung up his boots, he moved immediately into Die Roten’s management ranks, where he began as an assistant in the club’s academy.
“I’m working towards earning my [UEFA PRO] coaching licenses here in Germany and am currently the head coach of the U-17 Academy team,” Cherundolo told ussoccer.com this week. “I’m just trying to get as much experience as I can, at as many levels as I can.”
The Hannover 96 U-17 Academy Team with head coach Steve Cherundolo (pictured far left)
While most of his management experience has come at the youth level, the former Hannover captain did take a short stint as a first-team assistant in April of 2015. He temporarily joined newly named head coach Michael Frontzeck’s staff as the club rallied to stay up in the Bundesliga that season.
“That was a great experience, a successful one where we ended up staying in the top division. That was fun, that was good and then I decided to go on my own route. I wanted to coach my own team and to do my own things, so then I started with the Under-17s and this is my second season. I’m enjoying it a lot."
A mainstay at right back for much of his time with the MNT, Cherundolo is one of only 17 U.S. players all-time to be part of three or more FIFA World Cup rosters. A near automatic choice at right back for three different National Team coaches, Cherundolo’s 87 career caps surely would have pushed passed 100 if he spent even a few years of his club career stateside.
Steve Cherundolo celebrates a goal for Hannover against Wolfsburg in October 2004
Instead, the San Diego native continues to be a rarity in the game’s modern era, happily continuing his reign as a “one club man” with Hannover.
“It’s not something you envision. I think every young American, every soccer player who starts somewhere at a club hopes that they have a long career and certainly that was something I was able to achieve. That was great, but I had no idea I’d spend my entire career here in Hannover. It just seemed to work out that every contract extension it seemed to be the right decision for both the club and myself. I’m fortunate it did work out that way as a player, and it’s continued now for me as a coach.”
While his main focus is towards helping develop young talent for Hannover, Cherundolo says he still keeps tabs on the only other team he’s played for, and praised the recent hiring of Bruce Arena as MNT head coach.
Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan stand for the National Anthem ahead of the USA's 2010 World Cup match vs. Slovenia
“From my standpoint, he’s the right guy for the job,” Cherundolo said about the man that handed him his MNT debut in 1999. “Bruce brings a ton of experience, and as a player I was able to learn an unbelievable amount about always being competitive not only on game day, but in training as well.”
Part of Arena’s rosters at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, Cherundolo said the veteran manager’s ability to motivate players combined with his knack for fielding a starting XI that gives his team the best chance to win has made Arena the most successful coach in MNT history.
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“It may not have been the best 11 players, but it was certainly the group that mixes well together and is the strongest side to be successful at the end of the game. I think that’s something that Bruce does very, very well, and I think that’s one of his strongest traits as a coach.”
Due to be eligible for the entry into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2018, Cherundolo looks back fondly on the memories made during his international career. From Landon Donovan’s game-winner against Algeria in 2010 and the matches in which the U.S. clinched qualification to his three different World Cups, above all the 38-year-old counts the time he got to spend with his fellow U.S. teammates as his favorite moments from a 13-year international career.
Cherundolo and U.S. teammates celebrate finishing atop the 2009 Hexagonal on Oct. 14, 2009
“On the road, on the planes, in the hotels – those are moments that for me were very personal, gratifying and moments that I cherished very much. There were some fabulous memories and there wasn’t one camp that I can recall that I wasn’t happy while I was there.
“There were amazing experiences and amazing players. U.S. Soccer has done a great job of creating atmospheres in camp where it was enjoyable for players, but also very professional at the same time. I think it’s a privilege to have been involved in the program for so long and every training camp was something special.”