Right back where Hejduk started
After spending two months battling back from an ankle injury, Frankie Hejduk was subjected to a rude awakening as he entered the field for the first time this season in an MLS game. Just two minutes after he came on Saturday, the New England Revolution scored their first of three second-half goals to end the Columbus Crew's MLS-record 19-match league unbeaten streak.
Hejduk injured his right ankle on his very first day back with the Crew during preseason training.
"I hurt my ankle on my first day back from the national team," said Hejduk. "It has been about eight weeks. Now, it is totally 100 percent healed."
Known for his outstanding fitness level, the ankle injury posed a threat for him to stay in shape during the preseason. Still, Hejduk feels that he just needs a few matches to get up to par.
"I need to get minutes. You get fit by playing games," said the three-time MLS All-Star. "The last couple of weeks I have been getting myself fit through training. I just need to get back to game fitness."
Aware of his reputation, Hejduk added: "Fitness has never been a problem for me and everyone knows it. I don't think it is going to be much of a factor."
In addition to working up to his desired condition, Hejduk must become accustomed to a new position -- more or less. After spending most of the last two MLS seasons covering the right flank, he is switching to right back, a position that he has played extensively at the club and international level.
"As of (Wednesday), I am playing at right back, which is my position," said Hejduk. "I have played that my whole life. There is no reason for me not to be playing in that position."
Although Crew coach Greg Andrulis undoubtedly made the decision, Hejduk thinks the switch will be beneficial to him as well as the team.
"I have played that position with the national team and if I do get on the next World Cup team, it is going to be in that position," said Hejduk.
Besides being his natural position, squad changes have also played an integral role in reverting him back to his natural position. Last year, Tony Sanneh, Duncan Oughton and Stephen Herdsman logged minutes at right back. Now all three are injured, though Sanneh no longer remains with the Crew. Moreover, the Crew added wide midfielder Mario Rodriguez in the last few months.
Hejduk is anticipating teaming up with the Guatemalan international on the right side of the pitch.
"We could really have a great combination. We both have a lot of speed, work really hard, and are really fit," Hejduk said. "It could be a deadly combination on the right side."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.