Philadelphia Union: Carlos Bocanegra's MLS return "says volumes about where our league has gone"

CHESTER, Pa. – If Carlos Bocanegra plays his first game with Chivas USA on Friday at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), the Philadelphia Union will do whatever they can to spoil his debut.

But, at the same time, many of the Union coaches and players will be excited to see the former US national team captain back in MLS after nine years abroad.

“We know Carlos really well,” said Union manager John Hackworth, who used to coach Bocanegra as an assistant with the national team. “It certainly makes them a lot better. He will bring instant leadership to that club and do a great job organizing the backline. My expectation is he will play and that just makes it harder for us to break them down.”

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Hackworth isn’t the only one on Philly who likes and respects Bocanegra. Union assistant coach Jim Curtin and veteran defender Chris Albright both rose through the national team system with the star defender. Albright even once lived with him and his family in Bocanegra's home state of California.

“I knew he’d come back and I’m happy he’s somewhere close to home,” Albright said. “I’m sure he’s excited about it.”

Albright also believes Bocanegra will be in good form and make an immediate impact for last-place Chivas, starting with Friday’s game.

“We need every team in this league to be good,” Albright said. “I think he brings an element of notoriety to a team that’s been floating out there in nowhere land for a little while. I think it’s important that you get a recognizable face that’s American that can sort of carry the torch a bit for the club.”

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Hackworth agrees with Albright that the Bocanegra signing will be beneficial to both the player and the club. He also thinks it’s a great thing for the league that a player of his stature felt he needed to return to MLS after playing abroad, similar to new San Jose Earthquakes signing Clarence Goodson.

“I think that says volumes about where our league has gone and how we continue to grow,” Hackworth said. “It’s interesting we’re seeing a lot of American players come back to really try to solidify themselves within MLS and give themselves a better chance to make the national team.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.