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Carlos Bocanegra to retire at the end of MLS season

Sep 4, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT

Carlos Bocanegra, Randolph Hillsworth Burton

After 15 years in professional soccer, a career that includes 110 appearances for the United States, former captain Carlos Bocanegra will retire at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season. The 35-year-old defender, who has battled concussion symptoms this season, announced his decision Thursday afternoon.

“I’m still hungry for the game and I want to play, but unfortunately you can’t play forever,” Bocanegra said, in a statement distributed on U.S. Soccer’s web site. “I was thinking about this in the offseason, and it took me about six months to come to a final decision. The timing is right for me.”

That announcement comes toward the end of his first full season with Chivas USA, who the former UCLA Bruin joined after returning to Major League Soccer last season. On his way back to a league he called home from 2000 to 2003 with Chicago, Bocanegra spent time with Fulham (England), Rennes, Saint-Etienne (France), Rangers (Scotland), and Racing Santander (Spain), accumulating 266 league appearances across four European competitions.

Despite that club résumé, Bocanegra will be best remembered for his time with the U.S. national team, with whom he debuted in 2001. Across an international career that ended in 2012, Bocanegra appeared in two World Cups (2006, 2010) and won two Gold Cups (2002, 2007). In 2009, he helped the U.S. to a second place finished at the Confederations Cup, calling the team’s semifinal win over Spain one of the highlights of his career. With 14 international goals, Bocanegra is the program’s all-time leading scorer among defenders.

“Throughout your career you play for different clubs and have different experiences, but there has been one constant in my life and my career, and that’s the U.S. National Team,” Bocanegra said. “I’m just so proud that I got to represent the country for so long and play at the highest level I could.”

According to U.S. Soccer, Bocanegra retires as the U.S.’s all-time winningest captain, the team having won 34 times with the defender leading them out of the tunnel. Starting with the team’s June 24, 2007 match against China, Bocanegra spent the better part of six years in the role, bridging the gap from Claudio Reyna to Clint Dempsey.

“One of the most special moments was being able to captain the National Team,” Bocanegra said. “It’s a huge honor and it’s something I didn’t take lightly. It’s something that when I can look back on my career I’m very proud of. It’s just something that I’ll cherish forever.”

Bocanegra is one of 15 players to make 100 appearances for the men’s national team, with his 110 caps tied for seventh all-time.

If healthy, Bocanegra’s final game with be Sunday, Oct. 16 against visiting San Jose.

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