Crew Acquires US World Cup Veteran Frankie Hejduk
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Columbus Crew President/General Manager Jim Smith announced today that The Crew has acquired two-time World Cup veteran and former Major League Soccer star Frankie Hejduk. Hejduk has been training with The Crew since February 5 but was awaiting the finalization of international paperwork before his transfer to MLS was complete.
Hejduk (HAY-duck) had played his first four seasons in Europe for Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga, and his fifth season for FC St. Gallen of the Swiss First Division before re-signing with MLS and returning to the United States to play.
"I am really happy to be back home and in MLS," said Hejduk. "The team has been great so far and I am really looking forward to the season. I am finally glad that all the paperwork is complete. Now I can focus on helping The Crew win an MLS Cup."
The versatile flank player can play either midfielder or defender. The 28-year-old was a member of the 2002 U.S. World Cup team that advanced to the quarterfinals this past summer in Korea/Japan before falling 1-0 to world power and eventual runner-up Germany.
Hejduk started four of the five games the U.S. played in Korea/Japan, playing the full 90 minutes as a defender in the first three games (Portugal, S. Korea, Poland) and also starting the Germany game as a midfielder and playing 65 minutes. He was a member of the 1998 World Cup squad that was played in France, starting two of the three U.S. games and coming on a substitute in the other. Hejduk was also a member of the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Teams. He is the only U.S. National Team player to have played in the 1996 Olympics, 1998 World Cup, 2000 Olympics and 2002 World Cup.
"Frankie is a special player," said Crew head coach Greg Andrulis. "His incredible work rate and versatility make him a very valuable addition to our team. Our fans are sure to enjoy both his effort on the field and his easy-going personality."
The UCLA product has appeared 44 times for national team, scoring five goals with one assist. He had 14 caps (11 starts) in 2002 with one assist while playing the majority of those games as a defender. His 14 appearances were tied for the fourth most in 2002 for the U.S. and his 1,068 minutes played ranked fourth this past season for the Nats. Hejduk made his first national team appearance on Aug. 30, 1996 vs. El Salvador.
Hejduk signed with Leverkusen after the 1998 MLS season where he had played from 1996-98 with the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny. He was a MLS All-Star in 1998. He appeared in 50 games (48 starts) with Tampa Bay in regular season play and seven playoff games, notching five goals and nine assists in the regular season and one assist in the playoffs.
"We are thrilled to add a player of Frankie's caliber to our team," Smith said. "He has proven himself at the international level over the last five years, after starring in Major League Soccer's first three seasons. To have him return to MLS with The Crew is a significant event in both club and league history." The Cardiff, California native was a second team All-American at UCLA in 1994 and was second on the team in goals with six.
"We are seeing the return of many of our World Cup stars after their success on the world stage," said MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidas. "The fact that these players want to pursue their careers in Major League Soccer speaks volumes about the level of play in the League and its growing worldwide respect. Frankie began his professional career in MLS and rose to prominence through his league play. He returns having proved he can play with the best in the world and not just compete, but win."
Hejduk has a four-year-old son, Frankie Nesta. The fiery and intense Hejduk is also an avid surfer and qualified for the U.S. Amateur Surfing Team by finishing 10th overall while in high school.
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