Skip to content

Talking about sitting Carlos Bocanegra, starting Omar Gonzalez

Feb 6, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT

Italy v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

We knew it was coming. We just didn’t think it was coming so soon, which is why almost every lineup projection you saw ahead of today’s U.S. Men’s National Team match featured Geoff Cameron and captain Carlos Bocanegra in central defense. A few brave souls had MLS Cup final MVP Omar Gonzalez breaking into the starting XI, but the consensus held a road game to open the final round of World Cup Qualifying wouldn’t be met with a roll of the dice. If the big LA Galaxy center half was to be blooded, it would be elsewhere.

But when lineups were released an hour before the match, a mild ripple went through the U.S. soccer-loving world. Bocanegra was out, Gonzalez was in, and in the first competitive match of his United States career, the 24-year-old would be expected to form a quick partnership with Cameron in one of the more adversarial environments in CONCACAF soccer.

(MORE: What we learned from the U.S.’s Honduran Hex opener)

And we saw the results. On a minute-to-minute basis, Gonzalez seemed solid, but severe lapses on both goals put his performance under the microscope. Next to him, Cameron had his most-difficult game since breaking Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting XI. Combined a the poor performance from Timmy Chandler, a below-standard outing from Fabian Johnson, and a big mistake from Tim Howard, you could contend the States were lucky Honduras didn’t score more.

Combined with the basic mistakes that led to the final goal, the defense’s performance will leave U.S. fans asking ‘Why?’ Why was a reliable and experienced Carlos Bocanegra sat on a day when his would have proved so valuable?

In fairness, 75 minutes into the match, few people were talking about Bocanegra’s absence, but the nature of defending means you are judged by your worst moments. Those are the places where goals happen, so after Geoff Cameron failed to clear the through ball that led to the final goal, it’s fair to ask: Would Carlos Bocanegra would have done better? When Tim Howard seemed to misread the play and possibly miscommunicate with Cameron, we can’t help but wonder if the same would have happened if Bocanegra had started. And when Omar Gonzalez pulled up and allowed Jerry Bengston to beat him to the ball that became the winning goal, fans started imagining what the more-experienced Bocanegra would have done.

(MORE: U.S.’s Wednesday Man of the Match)

In our minds, we can see Bocanegra preserving today’s result, but our minds are also filled with the memories of a player that may not have been at Klinsmann’s disposal. In third round qualifying, we saw a more inconsistent Bocanegra than the man that anchored Bob Bradley’s defenses, a diminution made evident as the captain was left chasing Carlos Ruiz early in the U.S.’s final third round qualifying against Guatemala. Since, Bocanegra’s been a part-time player for the worst team in Spain’s second division. Because we’re not at every Racing Santander or U.S. national team practice we don’t know, but there’s strong circumstantial evidence to suggest Bocanegra may no longer be the player defined by our imaginations.

We have to at least concede there’s a possibility Gonzalez was the better option, a concession that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the idea Klinsmann made a mistake. The unfortunate truth is Klinsmann has a monopoly of knowledge on this issue, one that means we can never truly know if the boss made the right decision. All was can do is entertain the possibilities and use our intuition to decide which hypothetical Bocanegra is most likely the man who sat on the bench in Honduras.

(MORE: The falling stock of Wednesday’s performers)

If Bocanegra is still close to the player we imagine, Klinsmann probably made a mistake. That player should have been in Klinsmann’s XI. However, if that version of Bocanegra has been nowhere to be seen in training, we may be asking for a player who no longer exists.

Latest Posts
  1. Report reveals Premier League spenders and gainers with financial breakdown

    Apr 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Manchester United spent the most money in the Premier League, while Tottenham made the most.

  2. FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto

    Apr 21, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT

    Javier Mascherano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Two UCL quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday. Follow them both live, right here.

  3. Wolfsburg, already down 4-1, will be without De Bruyne and Schurrle for Europa League 2nd leg vs Napoli

    Apr 21, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    DeBruyne Getty Images

    As they look to mount a dream comeback on the road, the Bundesliga club will be without two of its best attackers.

  4. Report: Arsenal one of four teams in for young Palermo star Paulo Dybala

    Apr 21, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT

    Dybala Getty Images

    Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has dubbed him the “new Messi” in an attempt to boost his value.

  5. Chris Smalling signs new Manchester United contract through 2019

    Apr 21, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

    Smalling Getty Images

    With the most goals of any defender in the Premier League, Chris Smalling has emerged as a solid member of Louis van Gaal’s lineup at Old Trafford.

  6. Internal turmoil swirling at Leeds, with transfer lawsuit the latest incident

    Apr 21, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    Redfearn Getty Images

    Manager Neil Redfearn is dealing with countless off the field issues, while the club’s legal team now has a new task with problems piling up.

  7. Tim Sherwood may have convinced Ron Vlaar to stay at Villa

    Apr 21, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT

    Vlaar Getty Images

    A player whose departure many thought was a foregone conclusion appears to be reconsidering.

  8. Franz Beckenbauer: Der Kaiser weighs in on Klopp, Dante and Bayern’s CL hopes

    Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    franz-beckenbauer-nyc

    NBCSports.com’s Managing Editor Randy Kim spoke with Der Kaiser, as the German legend visited NYC.

  9. Karim Benzema the next Real Madrid attacker to go down injured

    Apr 21, 2015, 7:42 AM EDT

    Benzema Getty Images

    Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Marcelo are all already out for tomorrow’s 2nd leg with Atletico Madrid, and now their striker is unavailable as well.

  10. Mourinho: Chelsea will promote a handful of youth players to first team next year

    Apr 20, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea FA Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea FA

    Mourinho says Chelsea will look to the club’s stacked youth academy for reinforcements, as well as the transfer market.

  11. Report: Jordan Henderson agrees new $150,000-per-week contract to stay at Liverpool

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:44 PM EDT

    Jordan Henderson, Liverpool FC Getty Images

    Liverpool’s captain-in-waiting is reportedly set to sign a new long-term deal at Anfield.

  12. UEFA Champions League preview: Can PSG, Bayern come back from 3-1 down to Barcelona, Porto?

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Pep Guardiola, FC Bayern Munich Pep Guardiola, FC Bayern Munich

    PSG and Bayern Munich did themselves no favors in the first leg, but it’s still 90 minutes from over.

  13. Qatar, FIFA plan to house 12,000 fans on cruise ships at 2022 World Cup

    Apr 20, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

    In FIFA and Qatar’s latest installment of “No, We’re Not Joking, We’re Serious”…

  14. Former USMNT DF Steve Cherundolo promoted to assistant manager at Hannover

    Apr 20, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96 & USMNT Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96 & USMNT

    Steve Cherundolo got a promotion on Monday, under less than desirable circumstances, but he’s still advancing in the coaching world rather quickly.

  15. MLS Player of the Week — Week 7: FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

    He’ll be an MLS MVP one day, but for now Fabian Castillo will have to settle for MLS Player of the Week.

  16. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 7

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC Getty Images

    Week 7 was chock full of goals — some really great ones, in fact — making this week’s Team of the Week tough to pick.

  17. Premier League Power Rankings: Big climbers galore as momentum kicks in

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Leicester City v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    With five weeks to go, in-form sides are surging up our rankings of power.

  18. VIDEO: Is Chelsea’s defensive style boring? Do they need to entertain us?

    Apr 20, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT

    The Blues are inching towards the 2014-15 title but many are unimpressed with their defensive displays. Let’s sit down and think about this.

  19. New UEFA rules: An Arsenal FA Cup win could help Tottenham qualify for Europe…

    Apr 20, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League

    If the Gunners win the FA Cup next month it could well book Spurs a place in the Europa League. Seriously.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea