As an MLS campaign (pauses for a brief international window hiatus and soon) comes to a close and a USMNT calendar year wraps up, we'll continue our moment of reflection with a quick retrospective on a one-time USMNT mainstay who quietly retired when the MLS regular season wrapped up last month.
Kevin Baxter of the LA Times wrote, in our view, the best story on The Captain over a year ago when it became clear that Bocanegra had slipped out of the USMNT for good. We had a gut feeling: not only is it a shame that Bocanegra's journey couldn't have ended with a more deserving MLS club- if not one last trip to the World Cup Finals or a testimonial match. We asked Baxter what he took away from the story. He formed a much more convincing closing argument:
Don’t expect Carlos Bocanegra to complain – his entire soccer career has been marked by class, not crass, after all.
But Captain America deserved a better sendoff then simply being allowed to slip quietly into retirement last summer.
After 110 caps with the national team – only six men have more – two World Cups, two Gold Cup titles and a national-team-record 14 goals as a defender, Bocanegra played his last game for the U.S. in 2012. He didn’t know it at the time since Coach Juergen Klinsmann never said as much; he simply stopped calling him up for game.
An MLS Rookie of the Year, winner of two MLS Defender of the Year awards and a veteran of 10 seasons playing in Europe’s top leagues, Bocanegra announced his club retirement after sustaining a concussion while playing out the string with Chivas USA n July.
Chivas USA. That means Bocanegra played his last home game before 4,201 fans for a team that would be folded at the end of the season.
Shortly afterward, Landon Donovan began his well-deserved Jeterseque good-by tour.
Bocanegra can’t match Donovan for gaudy stats and spine-tingling moments; in soccer defenders are like offensive lineman, you’d don’t notice them until that make mistakes. And Bocanegra didn’t make many mistakes.
But he was the heart and soul of every team he played for. Too bad he didn’t get a victory lap too.
Mr. Bocanegra, it is safe to say we're only among many who will miss the steady play, leadership, the timely goals and the class. Onward to your next adventures!