Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
U.S. roster announcement: Bruce Arena's return marked by a singleness of purpose
by Ridge Mahoney, March 15th, 2017 3:32AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

TAGS:  bruce arena, men's national team, michael bradley, mls


By Ridge Mahoney
When he names his roster Wednesday (on FS1's UEFA Champions League pre-game show at about 3:10 p.m. ET) for the Hexagonal matches against Honduras and Panama, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena will not be assessing the state of the national team.

His job is to get at least four points and preferably six in the games this month in San Jose and Panama City. Period. Such issues such as foreign-based players compared to those in MLS can’t be addressed, reasonably, for at least a few more months. Yet with a few of those players, such as Geoff Cameron, just coming back from injury or not playing regularly – Brad Guzan, Jorge Villafana – Arena may choose a few more MLS players out of necessity.

Villafana, whose debut at left back against Jamaica in early February was a good one, hasn’t played a minute in any of Santos’ nine league matches. Greg Garza has started both games for Atlanta United, which he joined on loan from Tijuana to get regular playing time. Neither seems fit or sharp enough to take on a dangerous Concacaf foe yet if Arena wants to rely on a veteran of his first national-team stint, it could be risky to roll out DaMarcus Beasley, who played the full 90 minutes of Houston’s defeat of Seattle on the first weekend of MLS play but sat out a 3-1 defeat of Columbus on Saturday.

Multiply the left-back slot with a few more positions each with several candidates and you'll have a matrix of myriad combinations and possibilities. Throw in a weekend of league games that could drastically alter the depth charts by Monday and the start of training. This is USA Survivor 2017. If the fall-back choice of Fabian Johnson turns out to be the best one, the process won't much matter.

The overseas players are deep into their seasons and that includes those in Mexico, who have in fact been training and playing since last June though the season is split into two halves. Teams that didn’t make the Torneo Apertura playoffs or were eliminated early began training before Christmas for the current Torneo Clausura, which is already at the halfway stage.

One of Arena’s former Galaxy players, Omar Gonzalez, has been a smashing success since making the move to Mexico in December 2015, and he’s just one of several centerbacks in contention for two very important games. Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United) and Matt Hedges (FC Dallas) have played just two league matches, and Hedges had to miss the January camp because of an injury.

So a rather light contingent of MLS players – should Arena take that route -- for the March games doesn’t necessarily conflict with his statements that predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann may have devalued at least some of those toiling domestically. As the MLS season unfolds, there will be more evidence to judge a player like Alejandro Bedoya, a consistent starter for Klinsmann while playing for Nantes and now in MLS with Philadelphia. A cautionary tale is that of Mix Diskerud, whose move from Europe to New York City FC went so badly the team reached an agreement to buy terminate his contract and loaned him to Swedish club IFK Gothenberg.

Clint Dempsey may not be 100 percent but he's still Clint Dempsey. Can you really afford not to take him for a must-win home game? What about Tim Howard?

The bottom line for Arena -- and why he’s back in charge -- has always been about finding ways and picking players and implementing strategies to win.  He always leaves open the possibility of doing something other than what he said he might do, and while this trait sometimes perplexes fans and infuriates media members -- and occasionally his employers -- it is rooted in a confidence so deep it can seem to be arrogance or smugness. He knows he’ll make the right decisions, eventually. Self-belief to the extreme.

It’s not quite the same approach as taken by former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who once explained apparently contradictory actions and quotes by saying, “What do I care about my chitchat from yesterday?” And Arena truly does not worry about what he says publicly, since all that matters is what he says to his players and his coaches, and certain U.S. Soccer officials and staff members.

His clarity of ideas and directness of delivery has refreshed and revived the spirits of numerous players, along with those of many staff members weary of Klinsmann’s penchant for sending them into scramble mode at the last minute. Fewer meetings and more free time is a players’ dream, of course, and they also appreciate training times that don’t change from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. less than a day in advance.

So anyone primed for sweeping swaths of symbolism packaged with the roster announcement will be disappointed. Many others will weigh in from their perspectives about why this player has been named and that one hasn’t. So it goes.

The Arena approach is simplicity itself:pick the players best equipped to win, and put them in positions and give them resources to do so. If he senses any fragility or uncertainty or incompetence, he’ll find somebody else. What he has preached since his return is singleness of purpose. Failure is not an option, and every player named will feel the same urgency and responsibility shouldered by Arena when he agreed to a second stint at the helm.

  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: March 15, 2017 at 9:17 a.m.
    While I appreciate the article's reasonableness, I fear reasonableness will soon disappear from the stands after the first whistle of the match.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 15, 2017 at 10:31 a.m.
    Klinsmann said guys in MLS were playing at a lower level and slotted fewer of them in the XI. Arena makes warm and fuzzy noises about MLS and gets a hall pass, despite the fact they end up playing the same/similar roster? M'kay.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: March 15, 2017 at 11:09 a.m.
    Coaches should pick the players they think are best but there's no reason to trash talk MLS. So yes, even if Bruce picks about the same number of MLS players, it matters that he doesn't say negative things about the league or its players.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: March 15, 2017 at 11:34 a.m.
    R2 Dad, you are confusing apples with oranges. Where someone is playing is a factor in development. That is a long term concern. It is irrelevant to selecting a team of 23 for a match. That is simply a matter of selecting the best team from the players currently available. It is a short term concern.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
'Lots of guys' step up as USA earns sixth Gold Cup title    
The day before taking on Jamaica in the 2017 Gold Cup final, U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez ...
Miazga adds his name to deep U.S. centerback pool    
Just how deep is the competition at centerback on the current U.S. team? Three winners of ...
Michael Bradley, the leader, seeks a trophy    
The youngest and the oldest players on the U.S. national team - and the head coach ...
There is and continues to be only one Deuce    
The Deuce lived up to his name Saturday. After the entrance of substitute Clint Dempsey, the ...
One man's Midseason MLS Best XI    
The list of All-Stars was released by MLS on Tuesday and amid the controversy of who ...
Arena goes with experience -- and a few question marks in Gold Cup knockout phase.    
The six players called by Bruce Arena for the Gold Cup quarterfinals and beyond were not ...
USA beats a minnow: the woeful, good and hopeful     
What was the most pathetic moment for the USA in its Gold Cup game on Wednesday? ...
SA Midseason Awards: Nikolic, Paunovic head list of Chicago candidates    
An amazing turnaround in Chicago has the Fire challenging for the Eastern Conference title and Supporters' ...
Bruce Arena went too defensive against Panama    
It's true that the USA has a Panama problem. Los Canaleros are the only team that ...
Midseason kudos to Atlanta, questions for PRO    
A revived Eastern Conference heads the list of midseason trends for the 2017 MLS campaign.
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives