HAHNEMANN: IT'S A TOTALLY DIFFERENT BALLGAME
As a 17-year veteran of the US Men's national team, Marcus Hahnemann is well familiar with the evolving pressures facing the ever-changing group of players thrust into international duty.
While only having nine international caps to his name since his first call-up in 1994, the Seattle-area native has taken part in numerous national team camps, and has come to increasingly find them a welcome change of pace from the long, drawn-out club season.
"We've got a great group of guys and it's always a nice break from your club team to come in," Hahnemann told YA. "Most of the time everyone is completely different, and it makes the game fresh again, so it's a new lease on life."
Two relatively new faces on the team which the former Seattle Sounder has had ample opportunity to see up close and personal are the forward tandem of Juan Agudelo and Chris Wondolowski. While both share the common denominator of being recent additions to the pool, the different points in their careers when they first received the call and their routes to the national team highlights for Hahnemann how the situation has changed for players in the nearly two decades since he first donned the Stars & Stripes.
"I saw Juan [Agudelo] last time and he was one who really surprised me," he compliments of the 18 year-old phenom. "He is unbelievable, he did a lot of the shooting drills and really surprised me last time I came into camp."
"I wasn't ever in that situation so I don't know whether I could have even handled that when I was 18 since now it's totally different ballgame," he appraises of the experience facing a player such as Agudelo who is making his way on both club national team fronts at such a young age.
"I went to Seattle Pacific University and was a three-time All American there. There's pressure involved in that, but it's not the same as this, it's totally different. These guys are in totally different stages, and having to deal with that stuff."
"I never even made a regional team since I got cut from the state team," he continues, "so the first time I came into a big camp was when I came into the national team camp in 1994."
Hahnemann has also taken special note of Wondolowski, nearly a decade Agudelo's senior, who took a route to the national team more similar to that of his own, first through college then gradually working his way up the ladder with Houston and San Jose in MLS.
"This was the first time I saw him," he admits of the MLS Golden Boot winner from 2010. "He did the shooting drills and he'd hit everything."
"I asked him how old he was and he said 28," he remarks with some surprise. "I'd never heard of him and next thing you know he's coming in [to the national team]. He is late to come in, but he's a good solid player."
For Hahnemann, this dichotomy exemplifies the simple fact that there is no singular route by which players of vastly different backgrounds and pedigree come to share the national team jersey.
"You've got the guys [...] who were at Bradenton Academy and started off pretty early getting that full time training, but a lot of these guys went to university or were developed later. [Sometimes] you don't get that chance until a little bit later in life."
Apart from his national team duties, Hahnemann has had a long and fruitful career in England since his initial move to Fulham in 1999, although at 38 years of age questions of how much longer he will continue do tend to arise.
"I don't know," he concedes of how long he plans to continue his playing career, adding, "as long as it's fun. I'm not going to be at Wolves next year, but maybe I'll be back [in England] or in the states."
"Initially the plan was to stay another year [in England] and that would be perfect for the kids' school," he continues. "But if we find a great situation [in MLS] then I'll have to take it."
Having not only grown up but also attending college and beginning his professional career in Seattle, the local Seattle team is more often than not assumed to be a logical destination for Hahnemann once he does return stateside for his final years on the field.
While no longer under contract with his previous club Wolves in the English Premier League, he remains coy about the likelihood of an impending move to the Sounders.
"I have to talk to Sigi Scjhmidt and the guys in Seattle to see if they actually want me first, but that's something that can happen coming up this summer. We'll figure all this stuff out."
"Hopefully something is sorted by the end of the Gold Cup because if I'm going to England, teams are already in training by early-July," he continues. "I'd like to know what I'm doing for my family's sake and for the kids' sake. We'll come to a situation which is best for my family. I don't want to be moving around with them much anymore, I kind of want to get everybody settled in."
Any prospect of a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, where Hahnemann already has his own private enclave in the woods for time away from the game, will however have to wait, as he has a far more important calling on the field with his teammates in the coming days.
"If you're asking me if I'd really want to be up in my cabin fishing everyday, then yeah, I want to do that," he chuckles. "But this is more important to me. I really enjoy it. I'm getting older and know these opportunities aren't going to be around forever. I'll be able to fish next year."