United States: Does Bocanegra's Absence Mean End of an Era?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

HOUSTON - JUNE 22:  Carlos Bocanegra #3 of the U.S.A. celebrates as the final wihistle blows as the U.S.A. defeated Panama 1-0 at Reliant Stadium on June 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann released his squad Monday for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico, and there was one shocking omission from the list of 23 players (via USSoccer.com). 

Captain and central defender Carlos Bocanegra was left out of the squad that only saw six defenders chosen due to an injury crisis. 

Bocanegra, who is not currently injured, seemed to be a lock for the latest American squad because of his experience and leadership in the back four. 

The struggles of the American defense have been well documented over the last six months, but Bocanegra was supposed to be the steady force in what is an otherwise young back four. 

Instead of choosing Bocanegra to anchor the defense for the United States, Klinsmann opted to go with a young group of players. 

By choosing a young core of six defenders that have earned a total of 12 appearances for the national team in the past, Klinsmann is making a bold statement. 

Something had to change in the American defense. With Timmy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Edgar Castillo and Jonathan Spector all out injured at the moment, this was the time to make such a radical change. 

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Even so, Bocanegra's absence sticks out more than any of the injured players.

The 33-year-old, who has been playing with Racing Santander in the Spanish second division, has not played at the top level in any country in close to a year and that may have factored into Klinsmann's decision. 

A few American soccer pundits reacted to the news of Bocanegra with amazement as well. 

At 33, the end of the Bocanegra era may have been forced upon American fans earlier than expected.

Captain America, as he is affectionately known, has played for the United States since 2001 and has appeared in two World Cups. He has also scored 14 goals in his 110 appearances. 

If this truly is the end of the Bocanegra era, the young American defenders will have to fill a void that not only will be open on the field but in the locker room as well. 

Bocanegra has been one of the most reliable players in the last decade for the United States and if this really is the end of an era, it has been one that has provided fans of the United States national team with plenty of memories. He will not be soon forgotten by the American faithful.

Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90