CARSON, Calif. – In 1994, a shaggy-haired 21-year-old completed his final year of soccer at UCLA and two years later was playing for the Tampa Bay Mutiny in MLS’ inaugural campaign.
Now a shaggy-haired 36-year-old, Frankie Hejduk returns to where it all started, perhaps to close out a career with the LA Galaxy – his third MLS Club – that has seen him play in Germany, Switzerland, and in two World Cups with the US national team.
“[I’m] going back to my roots, where it all began,” Hejduk told MLSSoccer.com. “What a great opportunity to get to play in front of my friends and family.”
After being selected in the second phase of the first-ever MLS Re-Entry Draft, Hejduk and the Galaxy quickly came to terms. Hejduk spent the last eight seasons with the Columbus Crew and now will add some depth to LA’s defense and another veteran presence on the field and in the locker room.
Those are two roles he said he’s more than comfortable with.
“With all the games we’re going to have, with the Champions League and US Open Cup and MLS games with a couple of added teams, it’s going to bring added depth to a team that’s going to need depth,” Hejduk said.
The Galaxy will compete in the CONCACAF Champions League, which will add six games to their calendar, as well as the US Open Cup. The MLS season, meanwhile, will run 34 games, so the Galaxy could have well over 40 competitive matches to play in 2011.
“I’ve been a part of that,” said Hejduk, who experienced a tortuous 2010 schedule with the Crew. “I kind of know what it’s about, so I can help out there in that respect.”
The veteran adds more than speed and a non-stop engine on the right side of the defense; he also brings 15 years of professional experience along with being part of two World Cup squads, including a Bruce Arena-led US team that reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002.
Having another battle-tested 30-something-year-old on the team is not a bad thing, Hejduk said.
“Experience – you can’t buy that, you can’t teach that. It’s something that’s gained, so were going to bring that side to the team. The more experience a team can have, the better,” Hejduk said. “With this team, especially, there is an incredible mix of not only incredible experience but a bunch of top-talent youth as well. It’s going to mix really well.”