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June 3, 2007

Bocanegra talks Fulham, Gold Cup, and more

Carlos Bocanegra captained the U.S. squad for the first time on Saturday.
Carlos Bocanegra captained the U.S. squad for the first time on Saturday.
Linda Cuttone, SportsVue Images
Carlos Bocanegra was given the captain's armband by his former Fire coach, Bob Bradley, for the U.S. national team in their latest match, a 4-1 victory over China. The friendly was the final warm-up match before the team participated in the regional championship - the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The defender had a standout season with his English club, Fulham, participated in the 2006 World Cup and looks to be an important performer for the U.S. team going forward. He took the time to chat with Los Angeles Soccer News about a variety of topics.

LASoccerNews: You did well personally, but the club did not fare so well. How was last season for you?

Carlos Bocanegra: It's kind of a bummer that we didn't do as good as a team as we wanted to. On that note, it wasn't great. Personally, it was decent.

LASN: You had five goals and were the second leading scorer on your team.

Bocanegra: That was cool but to be honest I would trade those goals for more clean sheets and some more wins. It's hard to get excited about that when you didn't finish so well.

LASN: Chris Coleman was sacked and replaced by Lawrie Sanchez. Talk about how the managerial change affected Fulham.

Bocanegra: Everybody liked Chris as a person and in general. He'd been with the club a long time. He was my only coach since I've been there. When he left, you almost feel like you are kind of losing a friendship. That's what happens in football. Things change and you have to deal with
it. No one is sulking about it. It happens. I talked to him about it and he's alright. He's cool about it. He's like 'Just get on with it and keep going.' He was positive with us and wanted us to have a good finish at the end of the season.

LASN: What are your thoughts on Sanchez coming in?

Bocanegra: He's brand new and just getting his feet wet. I think in preseason we'll get to see more of him.

LASN: Clint Dempsey had some ups and downs with the club after joining Fulham in January. What did you see from him and how do you see him fitting into the club next season?

Bocanegra: He came in and was working really hard the whole time. His attitude was great. He wasn't playing and obviously it's frustrating coming from MLS where he is a superstar and going over there and not playing very much. I think it's kind of a humbling experience but you kind of have to go through the process to see how it is. He kept his head up and kept working hard in training and it ended up paying off for him with that huge goal against Liverpool. Everybody saw that he had talent. When he got a shot, he did well and he will be playing more and more next year.

LASN: In the lead-up versus China, you had some old teammates around - talk a little about the Chicago Fire connection in camp.

Bocanegra: Itís good to see the guys off the field Ė thatís probably may favorite part about it. I havenít seen Jesse and Ante for a long time. I see Beasley in the camps quite a bit. Itís good to have them around. Iím obviously familiar with them, but off the field is probably the best part about it.

LASN: Does the Fire group hang out together?

Bocanegra: We have lunch and usually sit together at the breakfast table. Weíll just sit and talk about old times, swapping locker room stories and stuff that happened on road trips with the Fire. Itís cool to reminisce.

LASN: Before you went to Europe, how did you view players there? Did you look to them for leadership?

Bocanegra: Definitely I looked up to them. They were a little mysterious, because it was hard for me to imagine what goes on in Europe. Now, coming from there, well, there's actually some young guys now there and they have a feel for it. They know it's not a place where you can walk right into a team and play every time. We can share that with other guys and help how we can.

LASN: Do you feel more responsibility with the team because you're a European player?

Bocanegra: Maybe not as a European guy, but also because I'm a little older now and a few of the older guys need to step up and be the new leaders of the team. Claudio, Kasey and Eddie Lewis Ė those were the type of guys that everybody looked up to and a lot of them are gone now. Now itís time for some of the other guys who played on the last World Cup team to kind of step up be those new leaders.

LASN: Do you think that Europe is the best option for a young U.S. player?

Bocanegra: I don't know. Itís different for each player. I personally wasnít ready to go to Europe when I was twenty. I donít think I was mentally mature enough for that. I enjoyed my time in MLS and liked playing there until I was ready to go to Europe. When I was 24, I felt I was ready to give it a go. Itís different for everyone. Eddie Pope, though, as been one of the best U.S. defenders ever, and heís played his entire career in MLS. It can go either way.

LASN: Are you anticipating meeting Mexico in the Gold Cup final?

Bocanegra: I definitely think Mexico and the U.S. will get to the final. Mexico is a very good team and itís always a good game when we play them. Theyíre probably the best team besides us in CONCACAF, so anytime you get a chance to play a team like that, itís good for us. It will be a good environment in Soldier Field as well.

LASN: Hugo Sanchez is really focused on winning the tournament, and heís brought in all the players from Europe Ė do you see that competition as being good for the tournament?

Bocanegra: Itís definitely good for the tournament. Mexicoís a good team and they want to win it just as much as we want to win it.

LASN: Do you anticipate returning to play in MLS again?

Bocanegra: I donít know. Iíd like to play in MLS again. I enjoyed my time in Chicago a lot here. I was lucky to have a great coach in Bob and we had a good team as well. I had a great time. Iím not quite sure. Iíll see how it goes, but I would like to come back here eventually.

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