U.S. Soccer has hired Bruce Arena as the new head coach for the Men’s National Team. An official announcement was made by U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on the official U.S. Soccer website on Tuesday afternoon. Arena replaces Jurgen Klinsmann, who was relieved of his duties on Monday following a pair of losses in the team’s most recent World Cup Qualifying games. This will be Arena’s second tour of duty as head coach of the USMNT. He previously coached the team during the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
Bruce Arena’s hiring as the new National Team head coach will become official on December 1. In an official statement, Gulati gave his reasons for Arena being the right person to take charge of the National Team.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list. His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
Bruce Arena also released a brief statement on the U.S. Soccer website, acknowledging his new job after managing the Los Angeles Galaxy since 2008.
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
Klinsmann being fired by U.S. Soccer was a move that many expected. In the wake of last week’s 4-0 loss to Costa Rica, the Inquisitr reported that firing Klinsmann was not the answer, in part because there was no obvious candidate to take his place. However, Arena is one of the few coaches, at least among American candidates, who is qualified to take the reins of the National Team from Klinsmann.
Bruce Arena being hired by U.S. Soccer means the return of the most successful coach the USMNT has ever had. As ESPNFC reminds us, Arena held the same job from 1998 to 2006, leading the Americans to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, their best finish since the 1930 World Cup. He was also in charge of the National Team during the 2006 World Cup when the U.S. was knocked out during the group stage after two losses and a draw.
Of course, the circumstances are different now than Bruce Arena’s first tour of duty as National Team coach. When he last held the job, Arena was given two full World Cup cycles, and despite a disappointing result at the 2006 World Cup, he moved U.S. Soccer several steps forward during his tenure. Arena will now be expected to provide a short-term answer for the National Team, not focus on long-term improvements.
Arena’s task as the new USMNT head coach is to fix the mess Klinsmann has left in time to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The Americans are at the bottom of the Hex after two games, and they have eight qualifying games left to prove they deserve a spot in the World Cup. Arena needs to get the National Team back on track and get the results necessary over the next eight matches to qualify for the World Cup. Otherwise, U.S. Soccer will have moved backward in its development as a soccer nation.
The hiring of Bruce Arena is in no way a long-term solution for U.S. Soccer, and the fact that they needed to make a coaching change is itself a serious setback for American soccer. Nevertheless, Arena may be the ideal choice to take over between now and the 2018 World Cup. He understands the job, he understands the challenge of qualifying for the World Cup, and he is a known commodity among most of the players in the U.S. Soccer player pool. His past success as National Team head coach also gives him great credibility and should be enough to earn the respect of the current generation of players.
There will undoubtedly be many challenges for Arena to face in his new job. However, hiring Bruce Arena may be the change of direction and shot of life that U.S. Soccer needs to persevere through this difficult period and accomplish its goal of reaching the 2018 World Cup. With regards to the USMNT’s fragile state, Bruce Arena may have the safest hands.
[Featured Image by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]