U.S. Soccer

Carlos Bocanegra: In His Own Words

Longtime MNT Defender and Captain Reflects on Upcoming Retirement and Successful Career


I was fighting through this decision this past offseason and thinking, “How much longer am I going to play,” and “What do I want to do with my career?” I’m still hungry for the game and I want to play, but unfortunately you can’t play forever. The timing is right for me. It took me about six months to come to a final decision. I’ve known for a little while now in my mind and in my heart. I’m happy with it, and I’m looking forward to the new challenges.

Coming into the National Team at a young age, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you come into a setup where it could be such a scary situation. You had all these incredible veterans, and these guys created an environment and a culture for young guys to come into where they showed you respect and treated you as one of their own. I think that was a big part of my learning experience on how to be a professional, how to be a leader and how to go about your business. That carried me throughout my career. It was invaluable to be brought up in that environment.

I think I’m most proud of my time spent with the National Team. Throughout your career you play for different clubs and have different experiences, but there has been one constant in my life and my career, and that’s the U.S. National Team. I’m just so proud that I got to represent the country for so long and play at the highest level I could.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career. One of most special opportunities was being able to captain the National Team. It’s a true honor and something I didn’t take lightly. When I can look back on my career, it’s something I’m very proud of and will cherish forever.

Some of my favorite memories came from just being around the guys. Being in that locker room, fighting together on the field, celebrating the victories, and even sharing the agony of defeat. The National Team was a big, big part of my life. I made so many lifelong friends from my career. I owe so much to U.S. Soccer for all the things I’ve been able to experience. Just being out there with the guys is what I’m going to miss the most.

Carlos Bocanegra

When I think about memorable games, you have to throw in the Spain game in the Confederations Cup that got us to the final. They had some unbelievable winning streak going on, and we knocked them off their post. In 2006, we played Italy in Kaiserslautern. The fans were amazing in that game, it was in a World Cup, and Italy was the eventual champion. The game had everything: red cards, blood, sweat and tears, and we got a draw, so that was cool. And obviously there was the Algeria game in 2010 that advanced us to the knockout stage. We put in so much work and effort, and it came down to almost a walk-off goal, so to speak. You watched the reactions on YouTube around the country – now imagine that feeling going through every player’s body times 10 because of the relief and the joy we all felt.

With my National Team career, I’ve been very fortunate to play under Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann. I learned something from each of them, and I think I grew tremendously as a player and a person.

There are a lot of memories from the different club teams. You are making new friends, seeing new places, and experiencing new cultures. Soccer has shown me the world, and I grew up and became the man I am because of it. One that sticks out was my time at Rangers. It was a fantastic experience at the top club in the country. To have the chance to play in front of 52,000 fans every game at Ibrox was incredible. That showed me how much I love soccer and how much supporters can be a part of a club and even be part of a culture. Those things you never forget.

When I finish my playing career, I’m looking to stay involved with soccer at the top level. I’m eager to be a part of something special. I have the hunger and the drive and the desire to keep being involved, and that’s not going anywhere. I’m excited, and I look forward to what’s coming next.


Captain Claudio Recalls the Greatest 'Dos a Cero' of All

The U.S. Men’s National Team rode a shock opening win against fourth-ranked Portugal, a draw against the host Korea Republic and a little help from the goalposts to advance to the Round of 16 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Finishing second in the group meant that the MNT would have less than three full days rest to turn around and face regional rivals Mexico in the highest stakes match the two nations had ever played. With little time to prepare, in some respects the U.S. was lucky to have drawn the team with which it was most familiar.

Despite the U.S. having won four of the previous five meetings, according to U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, when the team arrived at Jeonju World Cup Stadium that June afternoon, there wasn’t much respect shown from the opposition side.

“Before the game we walked out and we were walking around the field. We had this focus and concentration as a team as you do preparing for any game,” the former team captain told ussoccer.com. “I was with Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk, Gregg Berhalter and Earnie Stewart and we were ready to go – we were foaming at the mouth for this game. We looked over and the Mexicans were laughing, joking and looking at us…That was it.”

Reyna called the team over to quickly finish their pre-game pitch inspection and head back into the locker room.

“We sort of wanted the game to start, we were so ready to go,” he continued. “Back in the locker room, I remember saying, ‘These guys are laughing at us. They think they’re going to beat us easily.’”

Mexico had done efficient work to get to that point. Having finished with seven points atop a group that featured Italy, Croatia and Ecuador, El Tri’s run to the Round of 16 had the side brimming with self-assurance ahead of the match.

“They were feeling confident, but the lack of respect they showed was clear – you never do that,” said Reyna. “I would never do that in my career, even if I felt really comfortable about beating an opponent. That you’d be giggling, laughing and joking at the opponent. It was pretty clear that it was directed at us and at some of our players, and obviously we play them all the time so there’s that rivalry.”

“I remember saying, ‘We’re not losing this game guys.’ Everyone went around and you could feel it all the way through that we couldn’t wait to get out there.”


Reyna gets past Ramon Morales in the most famous "Dos a Cero" in Men's National Team history.

Injuries and suspensions limited the U.S. options, and Bruce Arena used the uncertainty to confound the Mexicans by deploying a 3-5-2 formation for the match. The switch saw Reyna move from his regular central midfield position to the right flank, with the move paying off almost immediately. Following an eighth minute foul in the Mexico half, Brian McBride quickly restarted as he saw Reyna pushing up the flank. The U.S. captain beat two defenders to the end line before centering for Josh Wolff, whose deft touch teed up McBride for a clinical finish and an equally gratifying goal celebration.

The goal set an early tone and played perfectly into Arena’s game plan, allowing the U.S. to sit in and pick its moments to counter against an increasingly frustrated Mexican side. Landon Donovan’s second- half header off an Eddie Lewis cross helped ice the game, giving the MNT its first ever World Cup knockout round win and a quarterfinal date with Germany.

“It was just a great team performance. To beat them 2-0, eliminate them and afterwards realize this was a big deal back in the States,” Reyna said.

The win raised the profile of the Men’s National Team more than any other since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, but in an age before social media, Reyna admitted the players didn’t realize how big an impact the victory had made.

“We didn’t know how huge it was at home,” he said. “We were in Korea and we knew it was sort of growing in momentum. I remember seeing some of the news clips from Mexico City where there were people in plazas and squares crying over the result – that felt good.”


U.S. supporters celebrate during the MNT's 2-0 win against Mexico at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Though the momentum was already building towards U.S. domination of the rivalry, the World Cup win tipped the scales. Since 2000, the MNT has held a 13-6-5 advantage against El Tri.

“From that moment on, it continued to be a real domination of Mexico,” Reyna said. “We went on and beat them all the time. That was the point where we felt we were no longer playing behind them, that we were better than them.”

“It was one big coming out party on the biggest stage.” 

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MNT Sep 19, 2016
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