MLS All-Star Game: Interview with Carlos Bocanegra

Photo courtesy of Allstate and Taylor Strategy
Photo courtesy of Allstate and Taylor Strategy /

Former USMNT captain and MLS star Carlos Bocanegra joined MLS Multiplex for an interview ahead of the 2018 MLS All-Star Game.

After collecting over 100 caps with the United States and playing across the globe for clubs like the Chicago Fire, Fulham F.C., AS Saint-Étienne and Rangers F.C., Carlos Bocanegra has retired from soccer and is currently the technical director and vice president of Atlanta United.

The two-time Major League Soccer Defender of the Year gave MLS Multiplex a few minutes of his time to talk about his transition from a pro player to a front office executive, his work in the community and how Atlanta United has taken the MLS by storm.


Juan Herrera, MLS Multiplex: Just to start, I’m curious, how did you transition from a professional player to working in Atlanta United’s front office? How did that come to be?

Carlos Bocanegra: It was an interesting transition. You lose nap time and you lose your meal schedule, I’ll tell you that much. I had finished playing and had done some coaching courses and was speaking to a few clubs about life after soccer and this opportunity came up with an expansion team. All signs just pointed to everything being a success here when I was being hired.

I went with this franchise and it turned out to have a great presence there. It’s under great ownership with Arthur Blank, the Falcons, the PGA Superstores and all the different entities across the family of business they have. It’s just been great and as far as transitioning from a player to the front office, it’s been a learning experience. It’s been about trying to grow every day and trying to take in as much information as you can, while also using your past experiences.

JH: You’ve played all over Europe, so what made you want to take this front office position in the United States instead of going somewhere like Spain or England?

CB: Soccer gave me so much here. The U.S. national team gave me so much here as well. I always wanted to be here and continue to grow the game in this country. I think it was a natural step and a natural progression. This opportunity came up and I was grateful for it and I was able to take it.

dark. Next. Interviews with Bradley Wright Phillips and Greg Garza

JHWhat’s been the key to Atlanta United’s immediate success in the league?

CB: We tried to learn from what other people had done and the success that they had. We went around and we spent the first two years visiting with other clubs with eyes open and ears open as well, just listening and seeing what they did well and what we thought would transfer over here to Atlanta. We tried to take the positives and learn from some of the challenges they had in the front office, the marketing side or whatever it was.

We really just tried to put our best foot forward with what would work here in Atlanta. On top of that, we had a fanbase and a culture here that was just ready for soccer, so the timing was fantastic and we’ve been fortunate to be successful right from the gate.

JHHow important has it been for the club to tap into South America for talent?

CB: It wasn’t necessarily something we were going to hyperfocus on as we were starting up, but we wanted to make sure we could acquire players that were high-energy, could play high-press and play run-and-gun. That was the type of style we wanted to play.

With the players that we were able to acquire, I can’t remember the exact stat, but when we were looking at it, Argentina by far, had the highest number of expats playing in the league. When you look at the players that had come here, they transferred very well. The transition was good and they were able to perform. The leagues are very similar. So they started migrating that way and it just became kind of a natural fit for us. That’s not the only place we’re looking, it’s just been kind of how it’s gone so far and it’s gone well.

JHFrom a broader perspective, what are your thoughts on how the MLS has developed and expanded since your time with Chivas USA?

CB: Oh man, it’s a whole different ball game. I remember the league quite a few years back and it’s just leagues and bounds different. From the facilities, the quality of the players, the amount of money spent on players, the travel, the meals and hotels, all of that stuff combined has just been a step up. It’s been nice to see the crowds and the sold-out stadiums. The games are on TV everywhere now, so it’s just been night and day.

JHOutside of the MLS, what are some of your favorite moments from playing in Europe?

CB: I remember playing with Fulham. My first match, I played at St James’ Park in Newcastle. That was pretty cool. Yeah, the Boxing Day derbies against Chelsea, those were fun. Playing at Rangers in the Old Firm and playing in France, just some of the atmospheres you experience at some of the bigger teams. A lot of great memories. I was able to live and visit the world through soccer, which is probably the coolest thing when I look back.

JHCan you tell me a bit about the work you’re doing in the community with Allstate ahead of the All-Star game?

CB: We’re doing a clinic today at Brown Middle School. So we’re bringing in local kids from an underserved community and it’s kind of their home field. Allstate’s done a great job at refurbishing the field and basically putting a new field in there and cleaning up all the stuff with new nets and everything, so it’s a nice place to play and a nice space for these kids.

I’m really just going out to have some fun with them. I’m going to do a little clinic to keep them excited about soccer and to just be a part of the community. This is what’s great about All-Star week. You get the fanfare around it and you get stuff like this going on. It’s just keeping people excited about soccer and who knows, maybe one of these turns out be the next Pulisic down the line.

JHHow important is it for the MLS to have these kinds of relationships with the community?

CB: The community has been excellent to us here in Atlanta. Like I said, you talk about the 70,000 people coming to the stadium, but there’s still barriers for people to get into the game. Little by little, getting into the community and giving back will hopefully affect some people and they’ll get turned on to soccer. That’s really what it’s all about. It’s a give and take. They give us a lot and we want to give them a lot.

Next. Dax McCarty: Interview with MLS Multiplex. dark

JHTo close out here, what’s the mindset moving forward into the second half of the season with United sitting at the top of the table in the east?

CB: The mindset is to try to stay on top and push forward into the playoffs. Everybody wants to beat us. Everybody comes in here, so having the right mentality on how we approach the game week in and week out is very important.