It all came quickly. First, losses to Mexico and Costa Rica that put Jurgen Klinsmann
's jeopardy. Then his firing on Monday that led U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati
general to approach LA Galaxy management about speaking to Bruce Arena
. By late morning on Tuesday, Arena was back as U.S. national team coach, a job from which he was fired in 2006 after eight
years on the job.
“I never expected to be back in this role the way it came about over the last 48 hours," said Arena in a conference call with media on Tuesday afternoon.
"However, I think any coach in our country would always be thrilled to have the opportunity to coach one of our national teams, so obviously when the opportunity presented itself -- I hate to say this
now to Sunil -- I would have done this for free. It didn’t work out that way, we did agree to a contract."
Arena, who spent parts two seasons with the New York Red Bulls and nine
with the Galaxy, said he was a better coach than he left the national team a decade ago.
“I’ve learned a lot," he said. "I’ve had 10 years on the field at the club level
and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented players in the world and understanding how they work and how to build a team; and I’ve continued to grow on the tactical
side, continued to grow in learning how to deal with players and learning how to plan and playing away and playing in big matches. I think 10 years later I’m better prepared for this job than I
was in 1998 and 2002, and ultimately 2006. I’m hopeful that the experiences that I have are going to benefit the program. You know, one of the things you learn from experience is you see things
a lot clearer and a lot quicker than you did previously, and the game has slowed down a bit where I can see as a coach, and in my position, how things are happening on the field. I’m better at
identifying the strengths and weaknesses of players and I think I’m better at how you build a team."
In a veiled knock at the national team under Klinsmann, Arena said the
USA had the players but it needed to develop a "team concept."
“I haven’t spoken to [captain] Michael Bradley,
" he said, "but I have had communication with a
couple of players over the last 10 hours or so and have an understanding, we need to build a chemistry with this team and have a common goal and really work on a team concept. I really believe
individually and positionally we have good players and we just got to get them working together as a team. There are no real secrets in how you build good teams. It takes a lot of hard work, it takes
communication, it takes discipline and it takes some talent. I think we have enough talent to build a good team and end up in Russia in 2018. It’s going to take a little time, a little bit of
patience and a lot of hard work.”
Mike Woitalla: Bruce Arena is a safe bet compared to the gamble U.S. Soccer took on Klinsmann
Paul Kennedy: Gulati: Two losses were
final straw for Klinsmann Ridge Mahoney: Jurgen
Klinsmann, the U.S. years
Arena coached a few of the players in his previous tenure as national team coach -- Clint Dempsey
and Tim Howard
were on the 2006 World
Cup team, and Bradley made his senior debut in 2006 -- others he coached or coached against MLS but others he only knows from watching them.
On bringing back players like Jonathan
and Benny Feilhaber
whom Klinsmann had ignored, Arena said he was open to looking at everyone.
"I think they and other players are good players," he
said, "and we’re going to give those type of players the opportunity to be back in the national team program. How it ends up, I can’t answer at this point. We have a lot of work ahead of
us. I’m well aware of the qualities of those two and others and we’re going to look closely at those players as we begin a domestic camp in January and ultimately select a roster for the
games in March. So, no names are off the table. However, I would say that its highly unlikely we’re going to bring many new players into the program. We’re at a time right now where we
need to get results and we need to have a team that’s ready to go in March.”
Most Men's Wins:
71 Bruce Arena
55 Jurgen Klinsmann
43 Bob Bradley
30 Bora Milutinovic
26 Steve Sampson
One of the questions raised about Arena's hiring was his commitment
to bringing in players born or raised in other countries telling ESPN FC in 2013 that "players on the national team should be -- and
this is my own feeling -- they should be Americans. If they're all born in other countries, I don't think we can say we are making progress." Eight of the 25 players Klinsmann had in camp for the
Costa Rica game were born and raised in other countries.
“If I made those comments," Arena responded, "I certainly don’t believe that’s my attitude. As a starting point,
one of my favorite players in my eight years as national team coach was Earnie Stewart. I believe that anyone that has a United States passport is certainly eligible to play for our national team. I
embrace all players that are eligible to play and I just want to make sure their heart’s in the right place and when they put the U.S. jersey on they’re playing for that crest on that
shirt. It’s important to me; I have a great passion for this national team and I expect the same out of all players. I am all for any players that are eligible to play for us and I really look
forward to working with our foreign-nationals as well as our domestic players."
Arena's Four Dos a Ceros:
2000: USA 2
Mexico 0 (friendly -- Landon Donovan debut)
2001: USA 2 Mexico 0 (Hexagonal opener)
2002: USA 2 Mexico 0 (World Cup second round)
2005: USA 2 Mexico
0 (Hexagonal clincher)
At 65, Arena is the oldest national team coach in at least the last half century, but he believes age isn't a factor in terms of his ability to relate to players.
“I don’t think the age matters, as a starting point," he said. "We just elected a 70-year-old man as president of the United States. We’re still going pretty strong in this
age group. How would I describe myself as a coach? A hard worker. I believe I’m a player’s coach. I like to believe I have a good understanding of how players are thinking. What I really
know is how to build a team. I understand all the qualities and circumstances that develop into making a team and, again, I’m hopeful those qualities will allow me to get this team moving at
full speed when qualifying starts again in March.”