CONCACAF Nations League

Carlos Bocanegra Made His Name With USMNT, And Top Flight Clubs In Europe

Carlos Bocanegra Made His Name With USMNT, And Top Flight Clubs In Europe

Carlos Bocanegra spent over a decade anchoring the back line for the US men's national team, and various clubs around the world.

Sep 3, 2019 by Steven Streff

His international career might have come to a disappointing end, but for more than a decade, Carlos Bocanegra was a stalwart at both the international and club level. Playing in MLS, England, France, Scotland, and Spain, the defender played almost 450 professional games throughout his career. He captained his country at the 2010 World Cup, and earned 110 caps with the national team, filling in at both center back and left back.

Bocanegra's club career had quite the trajectory, after starting with the Chicago Fire in MLS. Bocanegra spent a bulk of his playing time in Europe, having one of the most successful careers in Europe for a field player who played for the US national team.

Birthplace: Alta Loma, California

Years Active: 2000-2014

Clubs: Chicago Fire, Fulham, Rennes, Saint-Étienne, Rangers, Racing Santander, Chivas USA

Notable Achievements: Six appearances at two World Cups (2006, 2010), US Open Cup winner (two times), Concacaf Gold Cup winner (two times), MLS Rookie of the Year (2000), MLS Defender of the Year (2002, 2003)

Bocanegra had quite the illustrious career, both for the national team and at the club level, succeeding at several stops in his career. After playing under legendary coach Sigi Schmid at UCLA for his college career, Bocanegra was drafted by the Chicago Fire, and quickly made his name known. Winning Rookie of the Year in 2000, and Defender of the Year in 2002 and 2003, the center back used his success to pave his path to the US national team.

The current Atlanta United front office employee made his senior national team debut in 2001, in a friendly against South Korea. Over the course of his career, Bocanegra would earn 110 caps with the Red, White, and Blue, one of 17 players to reach the century mark for the men's team. Under Bruce Arena, Bocanegra was not always first choice, and bounced around between center back and left back, as he would at the club level as well.

When Bob Bradley took over in 2007 though, Bocanegra became the captain, holding that honor through the 2007 Gold Cup triumph, the surprise run at the 2009 Confederations Cup, and the 2010 World Cup. There were still occasional appearances at left back, as the US lacked depth at the position, but the California native was mostly enlisted as a center back.

When Jurgen Klinsmann took over in 2011, Bocanegra kept his role early on. However, in February 2013, Bocanegra was unceremoniously benched by Klinsmann for the 2-1 loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying. The moe was the source of much angst among the team, and Bocanegra would never again take the field for the national team. 

At the club level, Bocanegra parlayed his form with the Fire to a move in England, where he played in the Premier League with Fulham. With the side during the height of "Fulhamerica", Bocanegra was a constant presence in the team, making 133 appearances in five seasons. Bocanegra also had stops in France with Rennes and Saint-Étienne, before moving to Scotland to join Rangers.

At Rangers, Bocanegra played one full season in the top flight, before financial troubles relegated the Glasgow side to the Third Division. With national team ambitions still in mind, Bocanegra went on loan to Racing de Santander in Spain's Segunda Division in 2012-2013. Once out of the national team picture, Bocanegra returned to MLS, and played a year and a half with Chivas USA, before the club folded at the end of 2014. 

On the field, besides being known as a solid force in defense, Bocanegra was also a menace in the box on attacking set pieces. His 14 goals for the men's national team are the most ever for a defender, and he scored 24 goals overall as a professional. 

After his retirement, Bocanegra didn't step away from the game, as he became the technical director of Atlanta United just months after his last professional game. With the expansion side, Bocanegra helped build a side that was an immediate success in their debut 2017 season, which led to their 2018 MLS Cup triumph. If he can continue to help the Five Stripes stay at the top of the heap in MLS, then Bocanegra might even surpass his lofty achievements on the field.