U.S. Men's National Team

Hejduk enjoying a renaissance

Frankie Hejduk 2 (Reuters) 

                                                                       Photo by ISIphotos.com

Say what you want about Frankie Hejduk, but the veteran defender hasn't slowed down a bit.

Not only has Hejduk maintained a good level of play at the age of 34, he has actually stepped up his play for both club and country. With Steve Cherundolo sidelined by injury, Hejduk has made the most of the chance to take over as the No. 1 right back for the U.S. national team.

Here is my piece on Hejduk for ESPN.com, which discusses, among other things, Hejduk's impressive recovery from the ACL tear that kept him out of the 2006 World Cup.

Critics will focus on Hejduk's flaws, from his poor touch to inconsistent and, at times, awful crossing, but his weaknesses do not overshadow his strengths and the fact that he has actually improved over the past year, and more importantly, he is currently the best option at Bob Bradley's disposal.

While many of the other top right back prospects are either dealing with injuries, or just aren't ready for a starting role, Hejduk has stepped up and delivered some of his best national team performances to date in recent months. Few American fans will forget Hejduk's one-goal, one-assist performance in helping the United States come back from two goals down to tie El Salvador.

What do you think of Hejduk's renaissance? Do you like the idea of him potentially being the starting right back in 2010 for the USA? Still don't like the idea?

Share your thoughts below.

  • brett

    i like frankie… however, the big thing i dislike about his game is the (at times) dangerous 2 footed slides….

    his crossing isnt great, but we dont really have a pin point crosser at any position (excluding perhaps LD)…. he typically has the speed and acceleration to compensate for his poor touch…..

    however, 1 aspect of his game that is typically ignored by his haters is his capability of getting up in the attack and getting back on defense…. similar qualities in Wynne… perhaps our next generation’s Hejduk, with better touch?? we should hope so


  • mexicanbluefish

    HARD HARD WORKER, infectious work rate and effort… I wouldn’t be surprised if he improved even technically over the year.


  • Leonardo

    oldie but goodie. this guy has the heart of a kid. true joy to watch him when he’s fired up. he lights up his teammates i’m sure.

    and he’s from san diegoooo dude hell ya!


  • sonicdeathmonkey

    He’s been great for the Crew and the Nats over the past year, but if he is all we can offer at RB come SA2010, the US will be in big, BIG trouble. They need to find Stevie C’s replacement soon.


  • Granada

    He’s a legend and most people forget his contribution to US soccer over the years. He represented the US at the 96 Olympics, was an inaugral MLS player, was one of the few bright spots (Pope and McBride also) in the 98 World Cup, almost scoring against Germany in the process. That performance no doubt earned him a contract at Leverkusen, he was a pioneer in here in the sense that he was probably the first American to make the jump from MLS to a big European league. He played in the Champions League. Hejduk also represented the US in the 2000 Olympics, one of our best showings ever with a 4th place finish. And then there was the 2002 World Cup, where Frankie played out of position the entire tournament, lining up at left back and even in the midfield once, and acquitting himself well in the US’s best ever Cup.

    All of that to say nothing of his endless hard work, never say die attitude, optimism, heart, and now leadership on the field.

    Hejduk will be fine as our starter in 10. All of his previous World Cups, he has done well against top level competition. He has the experience to cover any situation, and for a defender of his age, he doesn’t have the usual liabilities: lack of speed and physicality. No one is going to get past Frankie without a fight.


  • SR

    The guy plays like a wild dog from the streets of Santo Domingo…chases everone and everything. I love it. Hope he dresses for each match in South Africa because he makes us better.


  • Erik Abarca

    When I think of Frankie, I think HEART!!! No matter how he plays that day, i know once he puts those cleats on, he is going to give it his all and then some. I wish everyone will follow his example on the USMNT.


  • jpc

    he’s alright, but its time to get Marvelle Wynne in there… If Frankie Hejduk is our starter at the World Cup we are in trouble


  • confused

    i’m a little confused. i remember ives writing that he prayed for wynne to start getting more minutes after that t&t loss. now he’s all about heydude. i guess it’s fine to change your mind and all, but i think most would usually acknowledge it.

    whatever. i’m not hejduk’s biggest fan, but i can’t deny that the guy is playing well. good for him. i don’t think i’d go as far as to say that it is now his spot to lose (once cherundolo becomes healthy. i still think steve’s one of our best players), but he should be getting starts for now. i can’t believe i just wrote that. goes to show what a few games can do…


  • Beckster

    I have been a Hejduk fan for a long time. Love his heart and passion. Glad we have him for qualifers but when I think 2010, I think Jeff Agos. Great defenders and critical to the MNT and can hold their own in Concacaf but in World cup, the time for 35 year old defenders is past.

    We better hope that Spector gets healthy – need backs that have been accustomed to defending against the Rooneys, Ronaldos, Drogbas etc of the world.


  • Oranje Mike

    If Hejduk is playing like is now next summer then a deserves a spot on the WC roster.


  • Brant

    After the 2005 qualifier v Mexico in Columbus, Frankie was clearly the happiest guy in the field. US Soccer auctioned off the jerseys of the players from that day with the proceeds going to Katrina relief, and we got Frankie’s.

    Between the auction and the arrival of the jersey, Frankie broke his wrist and was out for the year. When we contacted The Crew about maybe arranging for a chance to meet Frankie before one of the games and take some pictures with him and the jersey before we had it framed, they said they’d have to check with him.

    Apparently he couldn’t agree fast enough and was one of the nicest and most gracious guys you could imagine. When we were done taking pictures, he asked if we were sure we got enough, and took extra time to make sure he got good ones with our then-two-year-old son.

    We were all crushed when he couldn’t go to Germany, but we’ve still got the jersey proudly hanging on our wall, and the pictures with the family in my son’s room. He’s been my son’s favorite player ever since.

    He’s never going to be an all-world player, but it’s hard to find anyone who cares more about the game, both playing it and supporting it.


  • Patrick Marshall

    I agree with most of the posts here. I have always liked Frankie in the MNT lineup because of his heart, dedication and effort. I have said it many times that if everyone played (and trained) with the same level of committment our team would be incredible.

    Frankie does make some crazy tackles at times and I can live with that if he avoids getting red cards. What I think he should be improving is the quality of his crosses. That being said, he gets several more crosses in a game than most outside backs, due to his work rate.

    I also agree that Marvelle Wynne has many of the same qualities. Very astute readers here!!


  • Turtle

    Frankie’s the man. He’s the last of the old guard. His skills are secondary to his heart. That’s what’s gotten US soccer to where it is today. We might never see another guy like him for a long time (although I think Ching is of the same mold).


  • Mike Caramba

    Frankie’s played well. Hate to admit it, but he deserves to be starting.

    That said, I’m not sure if I’m reading this correctly, but it seems like Ives is suggesting he has surpassed Cherundolo (meaning, once Cherundolo returns, Hejduk should keep starting). I really think Cherundolo is one of those guys who owns his spot when healthy–like Donovan, Howard, or Bocanegra. Even an in-form Hejduk still tackles with two feet, has bad touch, and a far-from-perfect cross. Perhaps Cherundolo lacks Hejduk’s intangibles (ugh.) and workrate, but he’s undoubtedly a more skillful player and stronger defender.


  • Mike Caramba

    “Critics will focus on Hejduk’s flaws, from his poor touch to inconsistent and, at times, awful crossing”

    This is true. In fact, I did that in my last post – ha. But you have to admit, supporters of Hejduk rely far too heavily on arguments about intangibles–his heart, his drive, his unbreakable spirit, and his leadership, to name a few. I probably undervalue these characteristics–they are useful. But just as his flaws don’t completely negate his good qualities, his intangibles don’t make him a skillful player.

    I just needed to throw that in. He’s in good form and I feel safer than I ever have with him in the game. Take that however you will.


  • kpugs

    I’ve never totally bought Hejduk as a “first choice” national team player.

    Despite that, it’s hard to argue against him. He simply plays very well and does so consistently. My biggest problem with him, and maybe the thing I (in a contradiction) admire most is how reckless he can be in slide tackles no matter what the situation is in. He wins most of them and gets the ball in most of them. But sometimes I cringe and admittedly am just waiting for the straight red on a two-footed late challenge.

    But…so far I can’t really complain, good for him.


  • kpugs

    Great ESPN piece Ives. The only thing I can say is my own opinion, that Cherundolo is still a no brainer (with the maybe overly hopeful assumption that he returns to 100% health with no problems).

    Having said that, maybe Cherundolo can be slotted in at left back, he’s good enough to adapt. We all know the “left back conundrum” U.S. Soccer is facing. Maybe Frankie on the right and Cherundolo on the left would work out. I’m not sure Frankie would be a fit on the left though.


  • ThaDeuce

    I’m a Hejduk fan. He may not be nearly as talented as anyone on the field, but he is leaps and bounds better in the heart category. For comparison sake, Adu may be the most talented….who would YOU rather have on the field?

    Personally, I think heart and his recent form speak for themselves.


  • DMcH

    I’m all for Frankie being on the field all through the WC Hex and on to the WC Finals. I think that the pros far out way the cons in his case. This man is a monster on the field and we don’t have many monsters. You could call Gooch a monster because of size and strength, but he plays with a quiet cool… which I personally love in a center back. Frankie is our Wild Card… and Wild Cards come in handy.


  • inkedAG

    Ever since 1998, I’ve been a fan of Frankie Hejduk and he’s done great for the USMNT over the years.


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