To all the Frankie Hejduk haters…

This post originally ran on our sister blog, Fire Alexi Lalas, last week. Since it is related to the USMNT, we thought we’d re-post it here on Project 2010.

While watching the US defeat Mexico (again) on Wednesday, I was keeping an eye on Ives Galarcep’s running commentary.  One of his halftime thoughts kind of struck me:

Will the “Frank Hejduk is awful” people finally relax? He’s not Dani Alves but he can step up and play well when needed.

Fair enough.  If you’re a Frankie supporter (I would argue “apologist” is a more appropriate term), this game was definitely a score for your side and you have every right to rub it in.

Today, I was looking over one of Ives Q&A’s and found this response to what was essentially a “Hejduk sucks–agree or disagree?” question:

Hejduk remains a useful option, and one folks should appreciate rather than criticize.

Again, a perfectly reasonable opinion.  Some–myself included–probably overstate how terrible Hejduk is.  But here’s the thing:  Wednesday nights is about as good of a game as you’re going to get out of Hejduk, and I’d still rate it about a 6-out-of-10.  His pace, stamina, and work rate were all apparent positives, but he still went in for two-footed tackles, gave up dangerous free kicks, and worst of all, HE INJURED HIMSELF.  It still blows my mind how the commentators can look at the replay over and over and all they say is, “look how tough Frankie is!”  It is true: the decades of survival on the tundra before being frozen solid, only to be uncovered by  a team of USSF officials 10,000 years later, really toughened Hejduk up.  But you’d think someone–anyone–would point out that Frankie slid in (with two feet, by the way) two seconds too late.  There’s a bold line between aggressive and stupid and Frankie flew right over it (into it?).  I understand that there are times, like Wednesday, when a Frankie call-up is a necessity.  But I say, barring injuries to both Cherundolo and Wynne, Hejduk should not be starting.

Back to Ives.  Here’s the irony:  that “Frankie Hejduk is awful” crowd that he was talking about…I think before Wednesday’s match, Ives was one of them.  I was looking over an article from our sister blog Project 2010 and I found this quotation in reference to the USA’s loss at T&T:

IVES GALARCEP:    Frankie Hejduk (3).  You love his hustle but hate his lack of skill. It was his poor  pass that led to the breakout and eventual Russell Latapy goal. He mis-hit crosses and turned the ball over repeatedly. The performance makes you pray for Marvell Wynne to start getting minutes.”

Who am I kidding?  I’m sure what Ives meant was that Frankie should still start over Wynne, but Wynne should start getting more minutes off the bench.  My bad.

R.I.P Frankie Hejduk?

One of Frankie Hejduk's trademark tackles

One of Frankie Hejduk's trademark tackles

Back on June 13th, we released our Imposter! Frankie Hejduk article in the leadup to our first qualifier in Guatemala City.  And on August 14th, we re-released the same article (with a new forward) in reaction to his inclusion in the Havana roster.  Although I never really understood what people saw in Frankie, his presence became even more perplexing after he crossed the threshhold between young surfer dude and embarrassing sufer dad.  At last, after years of eye rolling, some of America’s soccer writers are starting to catch on.

In their post game analyses of the US-T&T match, Ives Galarcep (Soccer By Ives), Bruce McGuire (DuNord), and Jeff Carlisle (Soccernet) all criticized Hejduk’s performance.  Of course, they had to preface their statements with praise for his “positive attitude,” “hustle,” and “dogged pursuit of the opposition.”  But after that, they didn’t hold back.  In particular, they attacked his inability to cross, going as far as to call it “shocking.”  Frankie only scored 3/10 in both Carlisle and Galarcep’s ratings, making him the lowest on the team.  And who was their suggested replacement?  None other than Marvell Wynne–the very same player we pegged in our original article over four months ago.  It seems, perhaps, that the days of the Frankie Hejduk apologist are numbered and we couldn’t be happier.  Let’s hope that Bob Bradley catches on and lets go of this aging right back.  For full quotations, see below:

  • IVES GALARCEP:    Frankie Hejduk (3).  You love his hustle but hate his lack of skill. It was his poor  pass that led to the breakout and eventual Russell Latapy goal. He mis-hit crosses and turned the ball over repeatedly. The performance makes you pray for Marvell Wynne to start getting minutes.”
  • BRUCE MCGUIRE:     “I have always respected Frankie Hejduk for his tireless effort, positive attitude and dogged pursuit of the opposition. But last night the USA needed a right back who could simply cross the ball. And Frankie has never ever been able to do that properly. He had at least 6 great chances to make big plays happen and the team got nothing at all from it. That is unacceptable. I have a strong belief that Marvell Wynne could have gotten the job done.”
  • JEFF CARLISLE:     D, Frankie Hejduk, 3 — Defended competently enough early on, but was shocking with his distribution. It was his giveaway that sparked T&T’s first goal.”

Imposter! Frankie Hejduk

Frankie HejdukOnce again, old man river has been called up.  Yes, we’re still thin at right back, but after Marvell Wynne’s recent Olympic showing, he seems the obvious choice for this position (behind Steve Cherundolo, of course).  I don’t care if Frankie has the greatest intangible qualities (i.e. heart, leadership, blah blah blah) in the world–they simply don’t make up for his (lack of) ball handling, poor passing, and reckless tackling.  Just as I did with our “Missing Persons Report: Kenny Cooper,” I’ve chosen to repost our June 13th article on the USMNT’s most talented surfer…

I’ll admit it.  Even though injuries have taken away our best back-ups for Steve Cherundolo and a Frankie Hejduk call-up makes more sense now than it has since 2000, I still say this 33-year-old’s inclusion is a mistake.  Yes, I am biased.  But it’s not without reason!  Frankie Hejduk has three things going for him:  1. He is our most physically fit player and a great runner; 2. He is pretty good at going forward; 3. He is experienced, both for club and country.

Now lets take a look at some of the things Frankie has going against him: 1. He goes to ground too often.  It is the only way he’s willing to challenge for a ball; 2. On top of this, he’s really bad at tackling.  He’s reckless, subscribing to the “I got the ball, who cares if I swept his legs!” school.  This only contributes to our terrible habit of handing out free kicks in dangerous territory; 3. He whines every time a call goes against him, no matter how ridiculous his challenge is; 4. He’s got the worst first touch on the team; 5. He can’t pass.  He’s one of few (perhaps the only) American internationals you’ll see pass the ball out of bounds on a regular basis; 5a. Most of his crosses are off target, either sailing long or deflecting off of the first defender; and 6. I have nothing against veteran leadership, but he’s not getting any younger.  Writing off a bad performance as a “learning experience” is no longer an option.

To make matters worse, commentators and sportswriters completely ignore his embarrassing play.  If he gives up a dangerous free kick with a reckless challenge, they applaud his tenacity.  If he passes the ball out of bounds, they commend the hustle it took to get to the ball in the first place.  If he throws in a useless cross, they praise his speed getting forward.  Let’s face it, guys–other than an encyclopedic knowledge of inspirational Bob Marley quotations, all Hejduk has going for him is his legs.  And if that’s all it takes to play right back for the US, I say we go ahead and cap Seabiscuit.

Potential replacement:  Marvell Wynne.  He’s young, fast, a decent defender, and is now coming off a good Olympic showing.

Imposter! Frankie Hejduk

Frankie HejdukIn this segment, we look at the player who least deserved to be included in the latest roster…

I’ll admit it.  Even though injuries have taken away our best back-ups for Steve Cherundolo and a Frankie Hejduk call-up makes more sense now than it has since 2000, I still say this 33-year-old’s inclusion is a mistake.  Yes, I am biased.  But it’s not without reason!  Frankie Hejduk has three things going for him:  1. He is our most physically fit player and a great runner; 2. He is pretty good at going forward; 3. He is experienced, both for club and country.

Now lets take a look at some of the things Frankie has going against him: 1. He goes to ground too often.  It is the only way he’s willing to challenge for a ball; 2. On top of this, he’s really bad at tackling.  He’s reckless, subscribing to the “I got the ball, who cares if I swept his legs!” school.  This only contributes to our terrible habit of handing out free kicks in dangerous territory; 3. He whines every time a call goes against him, no matter how ridiculous his challenge is; 4. He’s got the worst first touch on the team; 5. He can’t pass.  He’s one of few (perhaps the only) American internationals you’ll see pass the ball out of bounds on a regular basis; 5a. Most of his crosses are off target, either sailing long or deflecting off of the first defender; and 6. I have nothing against veteran leadership, but he’s not getting any younger.  Writing off a bad performance as a “learning experience” is no longer an option.

To make matters worse, commentators and sportswriters completely ignore his embarrassing play.  If he gives up a dangerous free kick with a reckless challenge, they applaud his tenacity.  If he passes the ball out of bounds, they commend the hustle it took to get to the ball in the first place.  If he throws in a useless cross, they praise his speed getting forward.  Let’s face it, guys–other than an encyclopedic knowledge of inspirational Bob Marley quotations, all Hejduk has going for him is his legs.  And if that’s all it takes to play right back for the US, I say we go ahead and cap Seabiscuit.

Potential replacement:  Marvell Wynne.  I’m not sold on him, but he’s young, learning, and marginally better than Frankie.