Carlos Bocanegra Profile
|Born||May 25, 1979|
|Birthplace||Alta Loma, California, USA|
A cap centurion for his country and a leader wherever he has been, Carlos Bocanegra has taken the next step after his playing career to become techincal director and vice president at Atlanta United.
Carlos Bocanegra is a retired American soccer player who played as a defender for teams in the USA, England, Scotland, France and Spain. He attended UCLA and was a college star before beginning a professional soccer career with Chicago Fire in 2000.
He signed for Premier League club Fulham in 2004 and enjoyed four-and-a-half years in London before switching to French outfit Rennes in the summer of 2008. After two years with Rennes, he stayed in Ligue 1 and moved to Saint-Etienne for just one season.
Bocanegra then signed for Scottish side Rangers in August 2011 and spent two years at Ibrox, although he moved on loan to Spanish club Racing Santander for the second year of that deal. Despite expressing a preference to return to Rangers, he moved back to the States in the summer of 2003 and played for two years with MLS franchise Chivas USA.
Bocanegra announced his retirement at the end of the 2014 MLS season, having played in nearly 400 league games at his various clubs. After retirement, he remained in the sport and was appointed technical director of MLS franchise Atlanta United in March 2015.
He made 110 appearances for the United States national team and captained his country on many occasions, playing in two World Cups.
Breaking through at UCLA
Bocanegra grew up in Alta Loma, California and attended Alta Loma High School. A talented all-round sportsman, he was offered a scholarship to play college American football but opted to attend UCLA, where he excelled at soccer with the Bruins. For his exploits with the college team he was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
After graduating, he opted for a career in football and was a fourth-round pick for Chicago Fire in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft. Having made 27 league and 10 cup appearances in 2000, Bocanegra won the Rookie of the Year Award as the Fire made it to the MLS Championship match. He lifted his first silverware as the Soldier Field outfit claimed the Open Cup.
During his four seasons with Chicago, Bocanegra was widely regarded as one of the top defenders in the league and was the first player to win the MLS Defender of the Year Award twice - in 2002 and 2003. He scored five goals and provided eight assists in his four years in MLS. In total, he made 87 regular season MLS appearances and scored five goals.
Bocanegra's displays for Chicago and the USA national team made a few European teams take notice and it was Fulham who made the first move. The west London club signed him in January 2004, plying his trade at Craven Cottage until June 2008. Playing as a centre-back, left-back and occasionally a holding midfielder, he enjoyed 115 Premier League outings, scoring eight goals. The Californian made 133 appearances in all competitions and quickly became a favourite among the Cottagers' fans.
He was nicknamed 'The Jackal' and the 'Black Snake' during his spell in the capital and captained the side for the first time in September 2007, as Fulham staged a late comeback from a two-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with London rivals Tottenham.
Despite playing primarily as a defender, he was Fulham's second-highest scorer with five goals in the 2006/07 campaign, behind compatriot Brian McBride.
He failed to agree on a new deal and his contract with Fulham expired at the end of the 2007/08 season despite the club's fans making it clear they wanted him to stay. Manager Roy Hodgson did not see Bocanegra in his long-term plans and he made just 18 starts among 22 top-flight appearances during his final season at Craven Cottage. He started 16 games on the substitutes' bench but was only brought on once.
He was one of a number of USA stars who played for the club during that period and Bocanegra's professionalism and will to win marked him out as a top player during his time with Fulham.
Carlos Bocanegra and Ligue 1
Bocanegra moved to French club Rennes in the summer of 2008 after being signed on a free transfer by then-manager Guy Lacombe. He started all 38 league matches during his first season at the club, playing nearly every minute, and helped Les Rouge et Noir to finish seventh in Ligue 1. They also reached the final of the Coupe de France, losing to Guingamp in the showpiece match. He opened the scoring at the Stade de France in the 69th minute, but Rennes could not hold on and went down 2-1. Bocanegra also played twice in the UEFA Cup and scored once in a 2-1 victory over Dutch club FC Twente.
He scored his first and only league goal of that season on March 8, 2009, in a 2-0 victory over Auxerre. In total he made 45 appearances, scoring three goals. He enjoyed fewer outings in 2009/10, playing in 26 league games and 29 overall, scoring one goal and the decision was made to let him leave in the summer of 2010.
He joined Saint-Etienne on July 10, 2010 and went on to make 34 league starts in his first season at the club, scoring twice. He scored his first goal for the club on December 5, 2010 in a 2-2 draw with Bordeaux. He captained the side in the first game of the 2011/12 season, but was then signed by Rangers and left after just one match.
Rangers and returning to MLS
Bocanegra signed a three-year deal with Rangers on August 17, 2011 and made his debut against NK Maribor a day later in a Europa League qualifier. He scored his first goal for the club in the second leg of the tie but could not prevent Rangers from suffering a 3-2 aggregate defeat.
Fans of the Gers took an immediate liking to the defender, nicknaming him 'Captain America' for his displays in defence. He scored his first league goal for the club on September 24 in a 4-0 victory over Dunfermline Athletic and made 29 league appearances during his first season at Ibrox, scoring twice. In total, he enjoyed 34 outings but things turned sour as Rangers were forced into administration during the campaign due to financial problems and were handed a 10-point deduction.
Bocanegra made it clear he wanted to stay with the club despite the doom and gloom hanging over Ibrox but, after they were placed in the Scottish Third Division, he left on loan to join Spanish side Racing Santander. He had been dropped from the USA national team and wanted to boost his prospects of selection even though Racing were in the second tier of Spanish football at the time.
He made 23 league appearances - all starts - for Racing but failed to score during his stint at El Sardinero, picking up eight yellow cards during the campaign. He expressed a desire to return to Rangers for the 2013/14 season, but moved to the States to play for MLS club Chivas USA after USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann had warned him against continuing with the Scottish club.
In two seasons with the Goats, he played 30 times but failed to score a goal. In a situation that echoed his time at Rangers, Chivas ceased operations after the 2014 season and Bocanegra announced his retirement.
Carlos Bocanegra and the United States
Bocanegra's first taste of international football for the USA came at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship. He earned his first senior cap on December 9, 2001 against South Korea, coming on as a second-half substitute for Diego Gutierrez. By 2002, he was regular in defence and played every match as the US lifted the 2002 Gold Cup. However, he was not selected for the 2002 World Cup squad under coach Bruce Arena.
Bocanegra was back in favour after the event held in Japan and South Korea and hardly missed a match during the next three years, playing in the 2003 Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup of the same year. He missed the 2005 Gold Cup and split his time between centre-back and left-back but gained selection for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He missed the first match of that tournament but started the next two at left back as the USA crashed out in the group stage.
The arrival of Bob Bradley as America's coach saw Bocanegra promoted to captain - an honour he enjoyed many times during the rest of his international career. He captained the side to glory in the 2007 Gold Cup, with the USA beating Mexico 2-1 in the final.
He continued to be a regular presence in the side and was heavily involved with qualification for the 2010 World Cup. America qualified for the South African event and reached the round of 16 when they were beaten 2-1 by Ghana after extra time. Bocanegra captained the side throughout the tournament and played every minute.
He played in the 2011 Gold Cup as the USA reached the final only to be beaten 4-2 by Mexico and was a stalwart in defence over the next two years, captaining the side on a few occasions. He was part of the squad that began qualification for the next World Cup but his unstable club situation with Rangers saw him dropped and not included in the squad for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
He made his last appearance on November 14, 2013 in a 2-2 draw with Russia, wearing the captain's armband as he bowed out of international football.
In total, Bocanegra made 110 appearances for the United States national side and scored 10 goals.
Bocanegra is married to Lita and the couple have three children. He keeps his personal life very much out of the media spotlight. After retiring from the playing side of football in 2014, he stayed within the game when becoming technical director of MLS club Atlanta United in March 2015. In October 2017, he signed a new four-year deal to remain with the club while also taking on the position of vice president.
Having been part of the USA team for so long, he was appointed co-chair of the Technical Development Committee at US Soccer in April 2018 and continues in that role. Bocanegra was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in September 2020 in recognition for his stellar career, both domestically and in the international game. He will be inducted along with the Hall of Fame's 2021 class in the next ceremony after the 2020 version was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
He captained his country on 64 occasions and said of his time with the team: "To be able to represent the country and be a part of that group, part of that team and for one day bring some cheer to the country, that was pretty amazing to feel what sport can do for a country. That's something I'll never forget."