Crew defender Frankie Hejduk is a 37-year-old kid at heart.
While he relishes his image of a laid-back surfer dude, he’s fiercely proud of his career. He’s a six-time MLS All-Star, a two-time World Cup veteran and he captained the Crew to the MLS Cup.
The father of two – with another child due next month, daughter Cali – spoke with MLSsoccer.com about playing choo-choo train, his nostalgia for California and what his playing career holds for him from here.
MLSsoccer.com: The other day after practice you said you were going home to play choo choo train with your two year-old son Coasten. What would you have done in your younger years?
FH: Probably hang out at a bar, have a couple of beers and watch soccer.
MLSsoccer.com: You like this better?
FH: You live and learn and get wiser with age. I’ve got kids now. It’s all about them and what they want. What he wants now is choo choo trains and kicking soccer balls, playing with cars and going to the playground.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the best thing about being a father again?
FH: Watching Coasten grow and learning words. You start noticing things you see in yourself and him and it puts a smile on your face every single day. You’ve had a hard day or a tough day of training – you weren’t good in the game – you get back home and he doesn’t care.
I love it. It’s changed my life in a good way.
MLSsoccer.com: Your son Nesta will be a teenager in February; how are you going to handle that?
FH: It’s going to be a whole different world. He’s coming to live with us next year in Columbus. The Hejduk household is going to be a full household.
MLSsoccer.com: The name Cali pays homage to your home state. What do you do you miss most about not living in California?
FH: Definitely surfing. That was my first love. I don’t get to do it as much as I used to. I miss being in the water with friends and watching sunsets every day and sunrises at times (laughs).
MLSsoccer.com: What are your chances of making the World Cup squad?
FH: I’m one of those on the bubble. They know what they’re getting out of me. Nothing’s changed. Either [U.S. head coach Bob Bradley] is going to want that type of player or he’s not. I think I’ve done everything on my part to try and make the team.
A long time ago I set a goal after I tore my ACL [in 2006] that I wanted to give myself a chance to make the team. It was a long shot at the time and it’s still kind of a long shot, but I don’t think too many people would have thought I’d be in the position I am now back then. I’ve said it before that I never thought I was the first choice ever.
I helped the team qualify, which was awesome. If I make the World Cup great, it will be icing on the cake. If not, I gave it my best effort.
MLSsoccer.com: A couple of Olympics and World Cups and an MLS Cup – what more do you need to accomplish?
FH: I definitely want to get another championship for Columbus, because that was a feeling you can’t explain. It was awesome and I want that feeling back of lifting the Cup and having the whole town behind us, and the camaraderie of all the guys on the team.
The euphoria was incredible. I kind of explain my soccer career as a long, never-ending tube ride. In surfing that’s the best thing that can happen to you. You get the waves over you and you’re one with nature, and lifting the Cup was a similar feeling, as close as I’m going to get to that here in Columbus. I want that again.
MLSsoccer.com: Your contract is through the 2011 season. How much longer will you play?
FH: I definitely want to play next year. I know that. Will it be a different role? Who knows? I still feel that I can play at a high level right now. There’s no reason to believe I can’t do that next year.
MLSsoccer.com: Have you thought of your post-soccer career?
FH: When I start thinking about that I might as well stop playing soccer, because I want to be 100 percent committed to what I’m doing at that time. Right now I’m 100 percent committed to the Crew. Once I start thinking about little side jobs, then I’ve taken the eyes off the prize. There’ll be a time for that, and I’ll tell you right now I have no idea what I’m going to do.