Carlos Bocanegra wasn't away from MLS for long.
The former MLS Defender of the Year and US national team captain, who retired after playing the 2014 season with Chivas USA, returned to MLS on Monday when he was announced as the technical director for Atlanta's expansion club, which will begin play in 2017.
Bocanegra, 35, and MLS Atlanta president Darren Eales will oversee day-to-day non-coaching soccer operations of the expansion club's first team, including development of the team's scouting network, oversight of player wellness and the club's youth programs.
“I feel very fortunate to have played the game of soccer professionally for so many years and am excited to be part of something special here in Atlanta,” Bocanegra said in a club statement. “I’ve always wanted to stay involved with soccer at the top level, and to have that opportunity with MLS Atlanta is a great way to start this next chapter. I’m a competitor, and I look forward to bringing that drive and passion into everything I do here in Atlanta.”
Captain of the USMNT from 2007-13, Bocanegra made 110 national team appearances, most notably leading the US to a second-place finish at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and to a first-place finish in their group at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“We’re very pleased to have Carlos join us as technical director,” Eales said in the club statement. “With over 100 caps for his country, and experience playing both in MLS and top European leagues, he will bring a special skill set and presence to our club. He has an excellent reputation as a mature, confident leader, and we have no doubt that he will thrive in the front office as much as he did on the pitch.”
A California native who played collegiately at UCLA, Bocanegra was selected by the Chicago Fire in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft and was named MLS Rookie of the Year that season before winning consecutive MLS Defender of the Year titles in 2002 and 2003. He led the Chicago Fire to a Supporters' Shield title and the US Open Cup before falling in the MLS Cup final.
Bocanegra then embarked on a 10-year career in Europe, playing for Fulham in England, Rennes and Saint-Étienne in France, Rangers in Scotland and Racing Santander in Spain. He returned to MLS with Chivas USA for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.