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. Injury update: England likely facing Italy without Welbeck, Sterling

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    England v Slovenia - EURO 2016 Qualifier Getty Images

    Both Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling will most likely be out of England’s friendly vs. Italy on Tuesday.

  2. Wayne Rooney after Euro qualifying win over Lithuania: Other nations ‘frightened’ of England

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT

    Scotland v England - International Friendly Getty Images

    England trounced Lithuania 4-0 in a Euro qualifier for their seventh-straight win since the World Cup, and captain Wayne Rooney likes what future lies ahead for his country.

  3. Young Mexican-American Ventura Alvarado picks USMNT over El Tri

    Mar 27, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

    Pumas UNAM v America - Clausura 2015 Liga MX Getty Images

    22-year-old Ventura Alvarado asserts that he would like to play for USMNT in the long term.

  4. Wales manager Chris Coleman defends Gareth Bale after criticism from Real fans

    Mar 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Wales v Cyprus - EURO 2016 Qualifier Getty Images

    Manager Chris Coleman say Gareth Bale is only focused on the Wales’ “job in hand.”

  5. Luis Suarez believes FIFA treated him like a ‘hooligan’ following bite incident

    Mar 27, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano de Madrid - La Liga Getty Images

    Suarez doesn’t think he could be classified as hooligan after his biting incidents.

  6. New England Revolution’s early season struggles not hugely concerning

    Mar 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 2 Getty Images

    The New England Revolution have been on the losing end early in the season before.

  7. England lineup: Danny Welbeck starts; Harry Kane awaits first cap from the bench

    Mar 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Harry Kane, England Harry Kane, England

    No first cap just yet for Kane, though he’s expected to come off the bench in the second half.

  8. U.S. U-23 MNT hammers Bosnia-Herzegovina U-23s, 5-2, in tune-up for Olympic qualifying team

    Mar 27, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT

    Jordan Morris, USMNT Getty Images

    A resounding result for the 2016 Olympics hopefuls, away from home.

  9. Mark Hughes signs contract extension with Stoke City through 2019

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT

    Mark Hughes, Stoke City FC Getty Images

    Stoke City are on the verge of their first-ever top-10 finish in the Premier League, and Mark Hughes has been rewarded for his success.

  10. Juventus MF Claudio Marchisio tears ACL, will miss Champions League QF, 6-8 months

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Claudio Marchisio, Juventus FC Claudio Marchisio, Juventus FC

    Another bitter injury blow for Juventus, who now have just one fit, first-team central midfielder.

  11. Frank Lampard is in New York City to watch NYCFC play this weekend

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Frank Lampard, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    Lampard is in the Big Apple, where he’ll spend time with his future teammates and watch them play Sporting KC.

  12. Eden Hazard says Chelsea’s Champions League exit was a “blessing in disguise”

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:25 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    With a six-point lead in the league (and a game in hand), do Chelsea really need a “blessing in disguise” to win this year’s Premier League title?

  13. MLS preview: FC Dallas vs. Sounders, Whitecaps vs. Timbers headline Week 4

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:03 AM EDT

    Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders FC Getty Images

    A star-depleted (international duty) Week 4 of MLS should still provide lots of entertainment and quality.

  14. Scholes: Gareth Bale is a “perfect fit,” could lead Manchester United back to titles

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur FC Getty Images

    If punditry doesn’t work for Scholes, sign him up as Man United’s top player recruiter. At least he aims high.

  15. WATCH: Time-lapse video of San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium construction

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Watch in 90 seconds the construction of Avaya Stadium, from Day 1 to Game 1.

  16. International roundup: Neymar, Willian star as Brazil thump France, 3-1, in Paris

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    Neymar, Brazil Neymar, Brazil

    Neymar is 23 years old, and he’s already scored 43 goals for Brazil. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is.

  17. Report: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to miss a month with hip injury

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC Getty Images

    Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.

  18. UEFA fines Malmo $110,000 for “poor pitch” in Champions League, but racism still only worth $11,000

    Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF

    You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment