From Claudio Reyna to Clint Dempsey, the U.S. Men’s National Team has had – and will continue to have – its share of players who are awarded the role of captaining the squad on a frequent basis.
At the helm of this role is former MNT defender Carlos Bocanegra, who earned the most victories and captained the most games with this distinction.
On Thursday, Bocanegra announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2014 Major League Soccer season. On the international front, Bocanegra was the impressive foundation of the U.S. MNT for a number of years.
He had a 34-17-13 record (.633 win percentage) while wearing the armband for those 64 games. That constituted more than half of Bocanegra’s 110 appearances overall.
“One of the most special moments was being able to captain the National Team,” Bocanegra said. “It’s a huge honor and it’s something I didn’t take lightly. It’s something that when I can look back on my career I’m very proud of. It’s just something that I’ll cherish forever.”
Bocanegra first debuted for the USA in 2001, but it was not until June 24, 2007, when he wore the armband for the first time during a 4-1 victory against China PR at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California. At the time, former USA head coach Bob Bradley admitted that the captaincy could have gone to a variety of players including Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu or DaMarcus Beasley.
Ultimately, Bocanegra solidified himself in this role, beginning a six-year stretch in which he wore the captain’s designation more regularly than any other player.
“Carlos is a player who has earned the respect of all his teammates with his commitment to the game,” Bradley said after Bocanegra’s first cap as captain. “He plays hard. He talks. He organizes. Going forward, he is a key guy in what we are doing.”
Bocanegra went on to tally a USA record 14 goals as a defender, ranking higher than Marcelo Balboa’s 13. He broke Balboa’s record with a 10th-minute tally during the USA’s 3-1 victory against Guatemala on Oct. 16, 2012, in FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Bocanegra was also a member of two FIFA World Cup teams in 2002 and 2010, earning a combined six caps in those two tournaments. His 110 caps currently ties for seventh all-time with Paul Caligiuri.
His career also included eight assists in 9,222 minutes. Only four other players have logged more minutes than Bocanegra: Landon Donovan (12,813), Cobi Jones (10,592), Jeff Agoos (10,479) and Balboa (10,367).