One of the United States men's national team's most-respected players is calling it a career.
Carlos Bocanegra, who earned 110 caps, scored 14 goals and served as captain during one of the most successful periods in the history of U.S. men's soccer, announced that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2014 MLS season. Bocanegra currently plays for Chivas USA, which he joined just over a year ago after a lengthy European career.
Together with the retirement of Landon Donovan and Tim Howard's year-long sabbatical, Bocanegra's exit from the playing field further signals the beginning of the end to the first generation of young, MLS-reared American players that went on to form the backbone of the U.S. national team for years.
Bocanegra got his start in MLS at the age of 20 after being drafted by the Chicago Fire with the fourth overall pick in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft. He went on to win that season's Rookie of The Year award as his team made it to the 2000 MLS Cup Final and won that year's U.S. Open Cup.
“From his first days with the Chicago Fire to captaining the National Team, Carlos was always a player that gave everything for the team," his former coach Bob Bradley told ussoccer.com. "His presence and competitiveness were respected by everyone.”
After four standout seasons in MLS in which he became the first player to win the Defender of the Year award twice, Bocanegra became one of the first young American players to parlay their MLS success into a career in Europe. Bocanegra spent four years with Fulham from 2004-2008, where he became a fan favorite alongside fellow American Brian McBride. He then moved to France with Rennes and St. Etienne, then to Scotland with Glasgow Rangers. He finished his European career with Racing Santander in Spain before moving back to MLS with Chivas USA.
It is Bocanegra's international career, though, for which he may be best remembered. After becoming a regular at left back and center back in the lead-in to the 2006 World Cup, Bocanegra captained the team for the first time in 2007 and continued to be first-choice for the armband under Bob Bradley's reign as U.S. manager, including at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Bocanegra was among the first veteran players to be left off the U.S. squad by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, which led to Clint Dempsey taking over the team captaincy in 2013. In his time as U.S. captain, Bocanegra led the U.S. to the 2009 Confederations Cup final and the second round of the 2010 World Cup, and also won the 2002 and 2007 Gold Cups as a member of squad.
“Carlos deserves a huge, huge compliment for a great career," U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. "He proved himself with consistency at a high level for many years, and he was an outstanding captain and role model for the National Team. He was a great player and an even better leader, and we wish him all the best."
Barring a miraculous turnaround that sees Chivas USA make the MLS postseason (they currently sit last in the Western Conference, 10 points out of a playoff spot), Bocanegra now has just eight games left in his professional career. The last will come against the San Jose Earthquakes at StubHub center in Los Angeles.