Jurgen Klinsmann made no secret that captain Carlos Bocanegra (pictured) will return to the lineup tonight against Jamaica. So will veteran right back Steve Cherundolo:
What Klinsmann said Monday during a news conference ahead of tonight’s contest at Crew Stadium in Columbus:
Carlos will be back tomorrow and he’ll be our captain. He totally understood our decision that had to do with the last couple of weeks and the Mexico game where we tried out new things. We were very pleased with what we have seen in Mexico. He’s back in the team and Steve (Cherundolo) is back in the team. They are ready and they are very hungry for that game.”
Bocanegra replaces Clarence Goodson, who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation. And with that, the United States immediately benefits by 190 matches of international soccer experience. That’s significant – with a capital “S.”
Bocanegra has 106 caps; Cherundolo has 84.
And both veteran defenders have weathered the pressure of important World Cup qualifiers before. Quite a few times, in fact. Cherundolo has been a key component of World Cup qualifying efforts going back to the 2002 World Cup (which U.S. soccer supporters know as the breakthrough moment into a better day on the global game’s most glorious stage.)
(MORE: “That” moment in World Cup qualifying cycles, where the pressure mounts)
Bocanegra was one World Cup cycle behind, gaining his personal “valued man” status during the run-up to World Cup 2006 in Germany.
So even though the U.S. back line wasn’t a problem Friday in Jamaica, just having those two around will add steel and emotional steadiness, which tonight’s contest will surely require.
What Klinsmann said on this topic (specifically about Bocanegra):
His leadership is there if he’s on the field a little bit more than if he’s off the field. The experienced guys, once they’re here in that group, they are who they are. Carlos is a very important piece of the whole puzzle. Going back to Friday, it was not a tactical discussion that we had, we gave away cheap free kicks and lost the game based on that so you can’t blame the back line for it. You can’t blame tactical reasons. You were not sharp enough there to avoid those free kicks and you paid the price for it. Clarence played a solid game, but Clarence isn’t here (suspended for Tuesday’s match). He had a couple more training sessions and now Carlos is back.”