BERLIN (AP) — Former defender Steve Cherundolo is excited about the future of the U.S. team and has “no regrets” about not playing with the current crop of Champions League participants.
Cherundolo played at two World Cups and amassed 87 appearances for the United States until the last in 2012. He spent 17 years playing for German team Hannover, where he started his coaching career after retirement in 2014.
The coach of USL Championship team Las Vegas Lights, the 42-year-old Cherundolo is well placed to assess the state of the U.S. roster, and he is confident despite lingering disappointment from the failure by the U.S. to qualify for the last World Cup.
“It’s a good reminder that if you don’t perform in every qualifier, that things like that can happen,” Cherundolo told journalists in an online call this week after the U.S. rolled past Honduras 4-1 on Wednesday.
Cherundolo focused on positive aspects of the win in San Pedro Sula and the opening draws at El Salvador and at home against Canada, saying the performances were “very promising” at times.
“Right now, points wise, you’re on track to qualify for a World Cup. And I feel very good that this team and its coaching staff will get there,” Cherundolo said of qualification for the tournament in Qatar next year.
With the likes of Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, John Brooks at Wolfsburg, Weston McKennie at Juventus, Tyler Adams at Leipzig and Sergiño Dest at Barcelona, the American roster is well stocked with players from Europe’s best clubs – all playing in the Champions League this season.
But it was another who grabbed the headlines with his performance in San Pedro Sula.
Ricardo Pepi scored one goal and set up two more on his debut and Cherundolo said the 18-year-old forward had a “huge ceiling” after everything he’s heard and seen of the player.
“He has the physical characteristics of a classic No. 9. He’s tall, lanky, he has pace, he’s good in the air, he can finish with his feet. He really is the full package. He obviously has a lot to learn, but I am very excited about this player,” Cherundolo said.
Reflecting on his own career, he said he really enjoyed the mix of young and old when he was with the national team.
“I was able to learn from the older players when I was a younger guy. Perform, I think, at my best when I was mid 20s, late 20s. And then as I was getting older and slower and heavier, I would try to pass on what I was doing,” Cherundolo said.
“That progression is something that’s extremely important to the national team scenario. And this group that’s coming through now will have so much experience towards the end of their careers that they can pass on to the younger generation, some of the guys that maybe I’m coaching now.”
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