Bruce Arena: 'I would have done this for free'

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 and CEO/secretary 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 Bornstein 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.”

21 comments about "Bruce Arena: 'I would have done this for free'".
  1. Doug Wiggins, November 23, 2016 at 1:11 a.m.

    I think that Sunil has given Klinsman more than enough opportunities to prove that he is capable of understanding and developing players in the USA. In Futbol/Soccer as in any other National Sports, WINNING is the GOAL! Sunil as well as the rest of us USMNT supporters want one thing..TO WIN! Klinsman has provided unforgiveable failures in this area... Is there any other decision that makes sense?
    GO USA! Go Bruce Arena... put us back on track!

  2. Bob Ashpole, November 23, 2016 at 3:14 a.m.

    A few very lucky people have jobs they love. Professional athletes often love to play their sport. It is nice to see some coaches love their jobs too.

  3. Dan Eckert, November 23, 2016 at 7:27 a.m.

    Being a coach is a 24 hour a day job. You have to love it - or you just won't make it.

  4. marco gonzalez, November 23, 2016 at 9:24 a.m.

    This is the team i want to see..... Donovan and Dempsey: JK ruined my wish to see them play together. Obviously the highest scoring Americans ever. Bradley because he is the captain. Pulisic because of his youth and talent. Zardes because he plays that position in LA Galaxy under Arena. Williams for his good form and the back line I want to keep like this because you really dont want to experiment to much at this point in the Hex. Plus, this is the closest positionally they play for their respective teams and should help them perform much better. Arena is back! The bench is there for anyone I left out. :)

  5. Edgar Aldana replied, November 23, 2016 at 11:37 a.m.

    And that's why you're not a coach, poor choices all are over the hill, we have better younger talent.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2016 at 12:15 p.m.

    I was looking forward to seeing Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Torres and Feilhaber play together, but that was 5 years ago. That opportunity was wasted. Bruce's job is to look to the future, not replay what might been in the past.

  7. Brian Kraft, November 23, 2016 at 9:35 a.m.

    National sides reflect their respective nations. That is a great and necessary thing. Bruce will return cohesiveness and consistency to the squad. The style of play will upset many a visitor to this space, but it will be the most effective and will get the most out of the players we have. The top level of a national program depends upon, but is not about, player development. Player development happens elsewhere. The only thing that matters at the very top is winning.

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, November 23, 2016 at 9:54 a.m.

    This is true. And let's be honest - it's not like JK was playing an open, appealing brand of soccer.

  9. Joe Linzner replied, November 23, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.

    So have you been watching any games. Boot and hope long gone!!! Yupp Arena will develop his american brand of gun and run!

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2016 at 12:18 p.m.

    Maybe so Joe, but it won't be because Arena cannot coach every style of play. It will be because it is the best plan for that match.

  11. Brian McLindsay replied, November 24, 2016 at 1:52 p.m.

    Sorry but I cannot agree with you Brian, even Arena just coming back, understands its about creating excitement, ownership and a desire to support soccer in our country. How do you tell a large group of potential season ticket holders that they should be happy to spend their money to watch teams win, but always in an ugly fashion. I think we deserve more than just winning ugly, don't you? Proof: Portugal coach Fernando Santos “I prefer to play ugly and be here, rather than play pretty football and be at home,” And I know how much we all love and follow Portugal and Santos by how often they are talked about on these blogs. Point is there is some place between the two extremes and we should strive to find that place.

  12. Joe Linzner, November 23, 2016 at 10:13 a.m.

    I certainly hope you won't be disappointed! Arena gets to play the lower echelon of concacaf qualifiers. Teams we were expected to beat. It is a schedule just made for a Saviour, Tailor made for a huge EGO.

  13. Mark Landefeld replied, November 23, 2016 at 2:16 p.m.

    Well the away match at Azteca, fair or not, will be the barometer of this change.

  14. aaron dutch, November 23, 2016 at 4 p.m.

    Tony DiCicco should be the USMNT coach he is the only leader the US has ever had a real strategy, vision, plan, leadership & results. He could bring the same attitude, mental, cultural commitment of excellence that is needed by the Mens/Boys U-15 to National Team. He could gut the lot of them who don't follow a real approach of success.

  15. MA Soccer, November 23, 2016 at 6:15 p.m.

    Sorry this does not excite me. Time for JK to go but to replace with BA is lateral at best, again no long term vision.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2016 at 10:18 p.m.

    Just curious. Arena was hired to run the MNT through the 2018 finals, not to be a national technical director. So how long term do you think his focus should be? Especially since his future in the position is very much going to be based on immediate results during qualifying and then results at the 2018 finals.

  17. marco gonzalez, November 24, 2016 at 8:11 a.m.

    even if one is older and the other recuperating, donovan and dempsey could, be a force coming of the bench as super subs. these guys are quality players and that extends their efectiveness. they have scored and can score more than anyone out there young or fit. anyone that doubts just watch marquez send us soccer into crisis with one header. we should of course look foward but lets not waste the chance to see these heroes play together and give them the chance to send us thru to russia. its a mistake to ignore the obvious by getting so tangled in topics of less importance. the us needs GOAL!

  18. MYNOR PEREZ, November 24, 2016 at 10:07 a.m.

    Out with the old in with the new , we have tons of talented young guys, Nagbe

  19. Dean Groth, November 24, 2016 at 11:41 a.m.

    Juergen was more of a philosophy type coach. Always looking for a new way of doing something and experimenting with players--playing them out of position, combining different players, looking for new formations, take chances on new players and chances on old players... Bruce will stabilize things and get things to tactics. Face it-- at this level-- the highest level these players come in and play ... keep things simple which Bruce will do... Put each player in a position to be successful. Focus on the team play and tactics. Keep a simple system that a player can step into. I do worry our player pool does need to expand which we do need to do... Juergen did try to do this and did give us several players that we wouldn't have like Bobby Wood, Morris, etc. I also hope Tab Ramos gets to stay somewhere in the National Program... I think he was ok.

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, November 25, 2016 at 3:29 a.m.

    Why do you say we wouldn't have had Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris but for JK? Wood may play in Germany, but he is not German. He was born in the USA and played for the Irvine Strikers before joining 1860 Munich's youth program in 2007. Morris was the Golden ball winner at a USYSA national championship so he would have been identified even if Standford hadn't won a national championship. Both these players were not hiding under the radar.

  21. Frank Cardone, November 24, 2016 at 12:33 p.m.

    The dismissal of JK is great news and long overdue. I was excited about his arrival but his massive ego, his constant tinkering, his pettiness, and his poor results, turned me off several years ago. That's why I twice wrote to Sunil G, urging him to bite the bullet and make a change. Soccer-wise, my prayers have been answered.

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