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Hejduk's Heart, 'Cult of Personality' Keep Him in U.S. Plans

  • SI.com, Monday, March 30, 2009 4 PM
With injured right back Steve Cherundolo unavailable for U.S. duty, a familiar face (and ratty mane) has stepped in to fill the void for the U.S. defense: one Frankie Hejduk, who even at 34 has outperformed other replacement options like Frank Simek, Jonathan Spector, John Thorrington and Marvell Wynne to earn starts in both U.S. final round World Cup qualifiers.

SI.com's Greg Lalas calls Hejduk the "master of seizing opportunities," noting how he "provided the only heartbeat to a flat-lined team and earned himself a move to Bayer Leverkusen" at the 1998 World Cup and "did it again in '02, when he supplanted David Regis at left back." And now here we are in 2009, where after missing the 2006 World Cup because of injury, Hejduk is back in the mix, taking advantage of another's absence to make a case for himself as a part of the USA's South African plans.

While he might not have the same wheels as when he flew up and down the flanks for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, Lalas credits Frankie's longevity to other strengths, including a "cult of personality that surrounds the dude," a trio of qualities (discipline, perseverance and experience) that Hejduk must've picked up from his days as a surfer, and last but not least, an "ocean-sized heart."

 

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