After Sunil Gulati fired Jürgen Klinsmann for poor performances, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) has announced that Bruce Arena will return to take over as manager of the national team.
The most decorated coach in U.S. soccer history will return to lead the team on the road to Russia 2018. In Arena’s previous stint from 1998-2006, he compiled a record of 71-30-29. Arena’s crowning achievement was his team’s victory over Mexico in the round of 16 in the 2002 World Cup but he also claimed silverware in the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups.
Arena’s experience with navigating the Hex was a key reason behind his return to the team, as the U.S. national team is in the middle of their worst start to the qualifying stages in recent years. Arena has won three MLS Cups and two Supporters Shield trophies while at the helm of the Los Angeles Galaxy making him one of, if not the most, successful coach in MLS history.
U.S. Soccer released a statement from Arena.
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the national team it’s an honor,” Arena said. “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.”
Arena will now take the time to evaluate staff choices but the important thing is that the USSF was able to get this move done quickly. He will take over the U.S. national team with over a month before January camp, his first time to evaluate the player pool up close. Arena also will have until March to figure out his plan to face Honduras. Thanks to his extensive experience in MLS that evaluation period will be easier than it would be for an outsider, but it will be key nonetheless. Arena has promised not to make large changes to the team but he has promised that change will happen which is refreshing for American soccer fans to hear.
The one concern is that Arena won’t embrace dual national members of the team like John Brooks and Fabian Johnson. In 2013 Arena made a statement that will be held over his head until the next U.S. national team lineup is released.
“Players on the nat’l team should be American. If they’re born in other countries, we aren’t making progress.” -Bruce Arena, in next issue
— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) March 14, 2013
If Arena is able to move past this view he should be the right choice for the USSF. Experience is key during trying times, and there are few more experienced than Arena.