(Chivas USA Communications Department)
Rookie of the Year, Project-40, the United States Men’s National Team and two World Cups – these are just some of the things that describe Carlos Bocanegra’s professional career thus far.
Bocanegra followed his brother’s footsteps and went to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1997. After playing a couple of seasons for the Bruins, Nike started a program called Project-40. (The program is now sponsored by Adidas and is called Generation Adidas.)
“In college, [Nike] asked me to come out a little bit early for Project-40,” the California native remembers. “I didn’t really think of playing soccer as a career as a young kid.”
Project-40 has had some big U.S. names come through its ranks, including Tim Howard, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Edson Buddle, Michael Bradley and many more players that have represented their country on the big stage. Through 1998-2000, the Project-40 team was sent to the A-League in the United Soccer Leagues, which includes both professional and amateur divisions and is affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation.
In 2000, Bocanegra was drafted to the Chicago Fire.
“I got drafted into a really good Chicago Fire team with good players,” he recalls. “I ended up in a good situation, and it was a big boost for my career.”
Bocanegra achieved instant success in Major League Soccer, taking home the Rookie of the Year Award and being a big part of his Fire team making it to the MLS Championship game. Bocanegra would go on to win Defender of the Year back-to-back in 2002 and 2003. Then 2004 was the year that Europe would call Bocanegra, with Fulham acquiring his services on a free transfer.
“I didn’t know much about the European soccer scene, but Fulham was following my career with the national team and they were able to get me on a free transfer,” he tells.
Bocanegra spent four years at Fulham, appearing in 116 games and scoring eight goals for the Cottagers.
In 2008-2011 Bocanegra landed in France where he played for Rennes and Saint Étienne.
He then went to Scotland to play for Rangers, one of the most recognized clubs in Europe.
“I really enjoyed playing at Rangers in Scotland,” he says. “They are a massive club in the country and have a really cool culture.”
The Rangers were liquidated in 2012 and had all their contracts bought out. Bocanegra remained on the team to make a few more appearances before heading out to Racing Santander of the second division in Spain. After spending a year abroad and coming back to Rangers, Bocanegra decided to leave and return to the MLS.
“The MLS has great facilities, new stadiums. The travel is nice, and the players are friendly wherever you go,” Bocanegra describes. “It’s been a really good experience being here in the MLS, and it’s grown a lot since I left. The talent has gotten a lot better, you see the players getting bought and going to Europe.”
Chivas USA signed Bocanegra on July 1 of last year. Since then, Bocanegra has appeared in over 30 games for the Los Angeles-based club.
“Sunshine every day,” Bocanegra says on why he’s glad to be back in Southern California. “It’s nice coming here to StubHub every day with the palm trees. I’m enjoying life here back home.”
During his international career, Bocanegra represented the United States 110 times, scoring 14 times.
Bocanegra earned his first cap at the senior level on Dec. 9, 2001 in a game against South Korea. Bocanegra would eventually captain the side; he started with the armband for the first time on June 2, 2007 against China.
“It is an honor to go out there and captain your country, it’s something I cherished a lot,” he says. “It’s a pretty amazing experience when you sit down and think about it.”
Although he is no longer a part of the men’s national team, Bocanegra continues to be a popular figure among American soccer players in the MLS.
“You always have to stay positive in your career. You get ups-and-downs, but you just have to trust yourself.”
Along with being a defender for Chivas USA, Bocanegra is active in Cb3 Sports Performance, a program he founded in 2011. Cb3 helps athletes in his hometown area of the Inland Empire hone their skills using the same core principles that have guided him over the years.
Chivas USA host Vancouver Aug. 16 and the Los Angeles Galaxy Aug. 31. For more information, visit cdchivasusa.com and cb3sportsperformance.com.