Postcard from Europe: Boca ready to lead again

Captain back in USA for friendly; reiterates desire to rejoin MLS

AMSTERDAM – It has been a very busy summer for US National Team captain Carlos Bocanegra, who played every minute of each US match at World Cup 2010 before securing a transfer move to Saint-Étienne from Rennes. But as the saying goes, there's no rest for the weary.

After making his Ligue 1 debut for Les Verts against Paris Saint-Germain last weekend, the 31-year-old flew across the Atlantic to skipper the US against Brazil on Tuesday night. Then he'll hop back on a plane and return to France for a weekend tilt with Charlie Davies' Sochaux.

All the while, Bocanegra is still trying to go over his captain's log from South Africa.

"At the moment, I am just digesting the 2010 World Cup—so many emotions throughout that tournament," the defender told MLSsoccer.com last week. "This first year after the World Cup is usually pretty slow with the national team, mainly friendlies, so it will be nice to have some down time and try and get a good start here with my new team in France."

While most of his US teammates have offered bittersweet thoughts of South Africa, Bocanegra's early remembrances are almost entirely positive.

This may seem a little odd, being that he was the one to lose former Rennes teammate Asamoah Gyan for that split-second in the Ghana ouster. However, the veteran practically beams over the team's South African account.

"The World Cup was an unbelievable experience," said Bocanegra, who also featured prominently in the far less successful US World Cup campaign four years ago.

"I thought our effort, our willingness to stick together and fight through adversity, and our American team spirit really showed. We left everything on the field each time we played. I think the guys, our coaching staff and our country can be proud.

One standout personal highlight for Bocanegra became a widely shared photograph. When former President Bill Clinton dropped by the US locker room after they'd beaten Algeria in dramatic circumstances to reach the knockouts, the captain had the distinct pleasure of sharing a Bud with a hero.

"When former President Clinton showed up in the locker room after the game to congratulate us, it was pretty awesome," said Bocanegra. "He's one of my all-time favorites, and for him to take the time out of his busy schedule to come and have a beer and celebrate with the boys was something I will never forget. He is the man."

But the World Cup is now a scrapbook of memories, as club business reclaims the front seat. Boca was stationed centrally in Saint-Étienne's league opener, but as with the Nats, he says he may well turn up out wide on occasion.

"When I spoke with St. Étienne this summer, they wanted me because I was versatile and could play on the left or in the center,said Bocanegra, who also played a bit of defensive midfield with Fulham. "So I'm sure this year I will be doing a bit of both. Wherever the coach wants to put me to have the strongest lineup, I'm comfortable."

Having now played with Fulham in England and two clubs in France, the former Chicago Fire star is sticking by his consistent promise to make a Major League Soccer return one day.

"I have always said that I would like to come back to the MLS," Bocanegra said. "I started there and it was a great springboard for me to get over to Europe.

"Without the league, I know I wouldn't be where I am today. Each year, the MLS is getting better, the fan base is growing and just improving overall. It's still a young league, but they have made great strides already. I would love to come back and play in my country."