USA's steely captain Carlos Bocanegra is an uncompromising centre-back, always willing to put his body on the line for the American cause. Born in California, but with roots south of the border in Mexico, he made a name for himself in Major League Soccer with fledgling Midwestern outfit Chicago Fire. In his first season, in 2000, the defender's impact in the team led to him being named the league's ‘rookie of the year,' handed out annually to the best new player in the US top flight. In his four seasons with the Fire, Bocanegra reached the MLS Cup final (the one-off game that decides the MLS champion), won the US Open Cup (the American version of England's FA Cup) and was twice named MLS defender of the Year, in 2002 and 2003.
The player's rugged ability to snuff out opposition attacks and neutralise strikers led to a move to English Premier League outfit Fulham in 2004, where he embarked on a successful stint, playing 124 games and even scoring 12 goals in the bargain. While in England, Bocanegra branched out as a player, lining up as left-back and occasionally in a holding midfield role. Despite being a favourite among fans at Craven Cottage for his dedication and no-nonsense play, the arrival of new boss Roy Hodgson saw Bocanegra become surplus to requirements and he was released in May 2008. Since then, he has moved on to France's top flight with Rennes.
Bocanegra, now 29, made his first appearance for the US national team back in 2001 and has amassed over 60 caps. Since 2007, when he is available and in the squad, he wears the captain's armband and always commands respect, even scoring 10 goals, most with his head.