Cherundolo leading European movement 

March, 16, 2011

Clint Dempsey is having a career year at Fulham. Stuart Holden has been a revelation in his first full Premier League campaign. But of all the players on the Euro-heavy national team roster for upcoming friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay, none is having a better season than veteran defender Steve Cherundolo.

On the heels of an exceptional performance at the 2010 World Cup, the 31-year-old has quietly captained humble Bundesliga club Hannover 96 into a Champions League spot: The Reds currently sit third in the table, two points clear of Bayern Munich, last season's European runner-up, which Hannover trounced 3-1 on March 5. Not bad for a squad that narrowly escaped relegation a year ago.

"This season has been a dream come true," says Cherundolo, who became just the 25th foreigner to play in 250 Bundesliga games in last weekend's 1-0 win over St. Pauli. "I certainly don't expect every year to be like this -- that would be unrealistic -- but we have stayed healthy so far, have good coaches and are playing good football. It has been rewarding."

The recent success with Hannover is especially gratifying, perhaps, because Cherundolo has spent his entire professional career with the Reds.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.
Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.