Has the US national team seen the last of Carlos Bocanegra?
Perhaps not quite yet, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made no apologies for not welcoming him into the fold for the team’s two upcoming World Cup qualifiers, insisting that other players in the pool have passed the former US captain by while he’s languished on the bench in Spain.
Bocanegra, who made the game-day roster for the team’s 2-1 loss in Honduras last month but did not play, has seen limited playing time with Spanish second-division side Racing Santander since joining the team on loan from Rangers last August.
And unlike a number of Klinsmann’s other potential starters for this round of the qualifiers, Bocanegra isn’t injured. He’s just not earning the minutes to prove he’s still a valuable commodity for a US team with a changing identity that now includes center back options like Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, LA Galaxy star Omar Gonzalez or even Sporting Kansas City hero Matt Besler.
“The reason why he’s not here is he’s simply not playing,” Klinsmann said in a conference call with media on Monday. “He’s not getting any minutes with Racing Santander, so he has no flow, he has no rhythm.
“Carlos is still in our picture, and this is not the end of his national team career. But he understands that he is right now behind other players, and he’s not in the starting picture. And he understands that it gives other players the chance to show what they can prove.”
Klinsmann said he had numerous quality conversations with the 33-year-old Bocanegra in the weeks leading up to Monday’s roster announcement and that the former MLS star took a “very positive approach” to the news that he’d be left off out of the group.
“We’ll play it by ear over the next couple of months, how his situation hopefully will improve,” Klinsmann said. “He’s on loan until the end of the season – maybe about two more months – and then he’ll probably make another switch in his career. It’s definitely a situation where we’ll reevaluate it a couple of weeks down the road.”
Bocanegra boasts 110 senior caps with the national team, sixth all-time among US players and third among defenders behind Jeff Agoos (134) and Marcelo Balboa (127). His last appearance came in the team’s 2-2 draw in Russia in November, but he was subbed out after 18 minutes for Clarence Goodson because of an injury.
Klinsmann said that although he wasn’t sure exactly why Bocanegra was struggling to crack the starting lineup with a second-disivion team in Spain after such a fruitful career in the top flights of England, France and Scotland, Racing Santander’s instability has likely been a factor.
“Obviously they’ve had their fourth coach now, within one season,” Klinsmann said. “It seems like it’s not a very stable environment there. I don’t know the decision makers there personally, but it if there’s something happening there that’s not in the favor of Carlos, it’s very, very difficult for him to get his playing time.
“Hopefully he finds a solution at the end of the season to move on.”