Commentary

The triumphant return of Bruce Arena

By Paul Gardner

Well, take that Jurgen Klinsmann.

Never at any time during his five years in charge of the USA did any of Klinsmann’s teams put on a show like the 6-0 destruction of Honduras that marked the return of Bruce Arena.

Admittedly, I gave up watching Klinsmann’s teams after about three years, mostly because they bored the hell out of me. So maybe I missed something. Unlikely, I'd say. I returned as a watcher to see those final two disastrous games against Mexico and Costa Rica last November, the ones that finally convinced Sunil Gulati to fire Klinsmann. Two games in which the USA looked disorganized, disoriented, dispirited and, frankly, disgraceful.

How could the USA be that bad? Maybe some mysterious malaise had afflicted the players? It had. It was called Jurgen Klinsmann. The remedy arrived: Bruce Arena. In no time at all, working with the same players who had featured on Klinsmann’s teams, Arena produced a team that played with swaggering confidence, with an attacking brio, and with an impressive level of skill.

Is there any explanation for this almost overnight transformation from the pits to the heights? We’re back in the murky world of coaching again -- the very world I commented on just a few weeks back when I was, in effect, debunking the “science” of coaching, and likening a coach’s work more to voodoo than to anything scientific.

I am not about to appoint Arena as chief witch doctor, but I do detect in his coaching attitude a healthy suspicion of the scientific approach and of the jargon that goes with it. My talks with Arena -- quite a few of them, going back to 1972 -- have always been a delight to me because his opinions, and the language in which he expresses them, have been so totally real. No elaborate jargon, no cliches, no fancified tactical analyses.

He doesn’t relate well to such stuff. The mocking smile with which he greets -- and patiently answers -- fatuous, over-clever questions about alignments and formations is a delight to behold.

Not that I’m in agreement with everything Arena does. Far from it (I mean, signing Nigel De Jong for the Galaxy last year? What was the man thinking?). But it is his coaching style that I admire.

Arena’s self-confidence, which not a few see as arrogance, means he has never felt the need to use any of that claptrap to justify himself as a coach. Though he does use quite a few cuss words. Whatever his coaching truth is, it is not one that can be expressed in the stupidly stilted tones of the coaching schools.

Arena’s current success with the national team is not a miracle. A lot of it is due simply to the fact that he is not Klinsmann. Such was the confused atmosphere created by Klinsmann and his grab-bag of theories and California-style health fads that almost any reasonable coach arriving on the scene was bound to be a huge improvement.

For all Klinsmann’s undoubted experience, his expertise was very doubtful indeed. Whenever the USA did not fare well, he invariably found it necessary to tell everyone that the American players were simply not good enough. Not competitive enough. Because the American pro league, MLS, was not good enough either.

To which he added, on more than one occasion, that American players were naive. You have to be ready to hurt opponents, he explained. Americans were, evidently, soft. They needed to be nastier. That was his word.

Was Bruce Arena listening? I’d say not. His starters against Honduras included six players currently with MLS clubs. And there was no evidence of any gratuitous nastiness.

Two of Klinsmann’s favorite excuses exposed for the feeble nonsense that they truly are.

What we did see -- well, OK, what I saw -- was a group of players relishing what they were doing, players who were enjoying the game. The feeling seemed to be one of relief, that they had been released from some sort of restraint and were now free to be themselves. And if there is one over-arching danger of modern coaching, it is exactly that: it drains away the personality of the players and replaces it with the personality of the coach.

You can see how far that depressing development has gone, when a game in England between the two Manchester clubs is repeatedly referred to, and analyzed as, a clash between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

If I’m making it sound as though Arena is a shrinking violet, a quiet low-profile coach, that’s certainly not the case. But I do think that his coaching record maybe speaks louder than any words he might conjure up.

I have never found the intricacies of coaching “methods” of great interest. I really don’t care how coaches prepare their players. They can wrap them in saran-wrap each night, or feed them on organic unicorn soup for all I care. What matters is what happens on the field. The visible proof that a coach knows what he’s doing.

(You will have noticed, I trust, how quickly the “latest,” and therefore, it seems, the best, of the coaching theories are replaced by newer (and, of course, better) theories? And how unadaptable all of these theories are -- they seldom work when applied to different teams).

I think that, according to the criterion identified above -- that what happens on the field of play is what matters -- Arena emerges as a first class coach, one who knows how to balance the players/coach equation (everything there points to his acknowledging that the players must come first), and one who has little time for the pseudo-scientific trappings that complicate the modern game.

The earthiness and the practicality of Arena’s approach has simply brushed aside all of Klinsmann’s pretentiousness, to produce the outstanding team performance that blew Honduras out of the water. A perfect game? Hardly, soccer is never perfect, but this came close to being perfect because it exactly provided what was needed in this game, at this moment -- a massive confidence-boosting win. And you don’t score six goals too often, either. Six goals from eight shots on goal -- that was a big part of the perfection, but it’s a scoring-rate that is not likely to be repeated.

I doubt it will need to be. The USA will qualify for Russia -- as we always knew it would. Always knew, that is, until Klinsmann contrived to undermine that confidence and to make the USA look like a very ordinary team. Arena has quickly, and almost effortlessly, put a stop to that slide.

I guess this is hardly the moment to talk about Arena making the USA great again, but he will get the team back where it belongs -- as a Concacaf power, and as a World Cup team that demands to be taken seriously.

54 comments about "The triumphant return of Bruce Arena".
  1. R2 Dad, March 26, 2017 at 5:54 p.m.

    “The triumphant return of Bruce Arena”? Maybe a better title would be "My Gooey Love Letter to Bruce Arena". We're one game in to the new regime. Couldn't this column wait until we qualified?

  2. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 11:51 a.m.

    We just won by a record score in a must win game.

    If you're not full of 'Gooey Love' right now - even if it's momentary - perhaps you need to see The Wizard so that he may give you a heart.

    The rest of the Hex still needs to occur, but come on, this has to give you hope!

  3. Gary Wien replied, March 27, 2017 at 10:28 p.m.

    Gardner's hatred of any non-American coach is obscene. It would make sense if maybe 20% of the best coaches in the world were Americans, but the percentage is far, far lower than that.

    As for the game, imo it had far more with a rejuvenated Dempsey following a health scare that probably led him to wonder if his career was over, than a different coaching style. ANYBODY that has watched the US team over the last 5 years or so would likely admit that we are a completely different team with him in the lineup. If he had played, I doubt we would have been in the position we're currently in.

    But let's have Gardener rejoice and pretend that his war against the former German coach is over and he won the battle.... Someday he might look back and realize that the young core of the team - guys like Pulisic (who he brought in, beating Croatia for), Brooks, Chandler, Wood, and Green all had their careers benefited by Klinsmann.

    At least this should be the last Klinsmann bashing article he writes. I doubt it because he's been on auto-pilot for so long. He says he wasn't even watching the games, yet that didn't stop him from bashing the coach at every turn -- always after a loss without even mentioning the team following a win. Disgraceful writing.

  4. j bapper, March 26, 2017 at 6 p.m.

    Great article Paul! I am so happy the Klinsmann charade is over. Bruce Arena is not a sexy choice but he has the one thing that Klinsmann could never get from his team... a team that would give 100% for their country and coach. We might not be the most technically gifted team but you can rest assured with Arena as the coach, we will have the American fighting spirit and drive to win. Klinsmann never understood this part of our Soccer culture.

  5. George Miller, March 26, 2017 at 6:22 p.m.

    Can't wait for Panama. To see if this is for real

  6. Joe Linzner, March 26, 2017 at 6:35 p.m.

    alternate reality

  7. Bob Ashpole, March 26, 2017 at 6:37 p.m.

    This next match is important. Panama is 1 point ahead of us. This will be a more difficult test for the team.

  8. Tadaia Torquemata, March 26, 2017 at 8:44 p.m.

    GREAT article Paul but...

    "For all Klinsmann’s undoubted experience, his expertise was very doubtful indeed..."

    All of WHAT COACHING experience?? He had a total of 3 yrs experience as a GMNT figurehead and a failed Bayern coach prior to fleecing the USSF of millions, 6yrs of progress and our dignity. We must dispense with this myth of him being a so-called "experienced coach", disseminated by Sunil's propaganda machine asap, before our kids start believing it as fact.

  9. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 11:42 a.m.

    "experience" was referring to JK's playing career, "expertise" was referring to his coaching career

  10. Gonzalo Munevar, March 26, 2017 at 8:44 p.m.

    To see an illustration of how right Paul Gardner is about coaching, watch the excellent movie "Pele," a dramatic and moving biopic. With scenes that any lover of the sport will find beautiful.

  11. frank schoon replied, March 27, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

    Gonzalo , thanks for letting me know about the Pele movie. I do prefer the one video that starts out with him running on the beach. What a player , and Garrincha, just brilliant. Note the passing, the outside of the foot, the touch

  12. Allan Lindh, March 26, 2017 at 8:44 p.m.

    He started Pulisic in the middle
    Nagbe on the wing
    Put Deus up front
    And Pulisic brought us a bit of early luck with a good run and rebound

    Didn't take a genius, but just a little guts and intelligence

    Too bad they didn't make the change 2 years ago, when we all told em to.

  13. frank schoon replied, March 27, 2017 at 10:13 a.m.

    Allan , 2 years ago ,Pulisic was not the player he is today, for example.
    2 years is a long time and many things change...

  14. Ben Myers, March 26, 2017 at 9:37 p.m.

    Really now? The legacy of Klinsmann lives on, though. Look at the players put on the field against Honduras, as well as those on the sidelines with injuries or suspensions. Most of the newer players (not Dempsey or Howard) were brought into the team on Klinsmann's watch. The result of the last USMNT in the World Cup was just about right. With some luck, a diety might have coached them one round further. After the World Cup, the wheels came of the USMNT, and those of us on the outside have no idea why.

    Klinsmann was 100% right when he criticized MLS for being exactly what it is, a substandard first tier pro league that has done little to develop world class players. Saying so alienated Gulati and Garber, sort like saying that someone's baby is ugly.

  15. frank schoon replied, March 27, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.

    What Landon Donovan stated about the lack of progress in players development in the past 6 years dovetails with what Klinsmans stated.

  16. Ben Myers, March 26, 2017 at 9:41 p.m.

    And please, let's not discount the effect of a coaching change on a team. Look at Leicester in the EPL, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens in the NHL. Once the bump from a coaching change wears off, the team subsides. Again, the Boston Bruins were goosed initially by the coaching change, and they have now tailed off.

    So... Let's see where the USMNT stands when the Hexagonal is complete. Only then we can determine how well Arena has done. But he IS off to a good start.

  17. Rich Blast, March 26, 2017 at 10:25 p.m.

    Klinsmann was a fraud and a square peg for a round hole. I'm not sure we are super talented, but at least we seemed to play hard. In the end the players win or lose games, if the coach puts the correct players in a position to be successful.

  18. Kent James, March 26, 2017 at 11:11 p.m.

    PG, as someone who thinks very little of coaching, knows that Bruce Arena is not God. But he did describe accurately how the players played. Now whether that confidence and creativity was created by the early goal, or by BA's magic, who knows? I think beyond player selection (with some short-term preparation) a National Team coach has much less influence than other sports where coaches more directly control the team. I did not think JK should have replaced BB, but neither was it unreasonable to do so. I knew JK did not walk on water, but given his WC experience as a player (and coach), it was not crazy to think he might shake some things up (in a good way). The main problem was he was too clever by half, constantly experimenting and blaming others when things didn't work. And he also had no faith in the qualities of American soccer; instead of working with what he had, he cried about what he didn't have. I think where BA excels (and JK is very weak), is that BA gets the most out of the players he has, which is what the US needs. Panama will be a test of that.

  19. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 11:47 a.m.

    Well stated

  20. I w Nowozeniuk, March 26, 2017 at 11:24 p.m.

    Coaching style and positive interaction with players goes a long way. Let's see what kind of games follow.

  21. Tim Gibson, March 27, 2017 at 8:16 a.m.

    UGH....give it a rest on how awesome Arena is. Honduras bent over for us & we can't measure this team just yet. We still have a ways to go to qualify & if we don't then how awesome is he?

  22. Jay Wall, March 27, 2017 at 8:31 a.m.

    In 2016, 4 of the 20 highest earning sports leagues in the world were in the United States: NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. These leagues generated over 97% of the professional sports revenue in the United States from team sports and without revenue soccer can't successfully compete with them for players. And in 2016, 14 of the 20 highest earning sports leagues in the world were soccer leagues and Klinsmann coached in the Bundesliga, second highest earning soccer league in the world behind the English Premier League. And while there are very few U.S. players playing in the top 5 professional soccer leagues in Europe, why are so many in the USMNT player pool playing in Europe and Mexico, when almost all American players play in MLS. Might it be quality leagues outside the United States and Canada are developing higher level players and that Kilinsmann's obsevation that the USMNT needed more players playing in higher level leagues is correct?

  23. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 11:55 a.m.

    So you think wholeheartedly that Julian Green should have started this game? Steve Clark is playing over in Europe now - should he be starting over Tim Howard?

  24. Kent James replied, March 28, 2017 at 2:03 p.m.

    I don't think anyone is question that European leagues have higher quality players than the MLS. But there are two important questions where the answer is unclear. First, is an American player becoming better being on the bench of a European club, or starting in the MLS? And second, is it possible for the MLS to ever be as good as the European leagues, and if so, should good American players forego playing in Europe to help the MLS.

  25. frank schoon replied, March 28, 2017 at 6:13 p.m.

    Ken ,being on the bench on a European is much better than playing in the MLS, for you can't learn higher level of soccer in the MLS, that's the problem. For example, we don't build up the attack unlike in Europe , our level of soccer is a bit more simplistic. So that even though you might not be starter on the team in Europe there is so much you're learning about the game, playing with better players, competition is better,the thinking,etc.

  26. Thomas Sullivan, March 27, 2017 at 9:01 a.m.

    Maybe JK was with the Russians too! Apologies to Warren Zevon and Send Lawyers Guns and Money...

  27. Ginger Peeler, March 27, 2017 at 9:20 a.m.

    I'm not sure if I'd call Arena "awesome", but the game, and the way the team played, was, indeed, awesome. Of course, he was hired for the express purpose of seeing that the team qualified for the World Cup. I'd say he's made an excellent start. Consider: he'd already lost 4 (or more?) of our usual STARTERS! Yet, the group he fielded (mostly guys from MLS...you know, that 2nd or 3rd rate league that plays in the States as some folks always like to remind us?)...those guys, every single one of those players was rated as a 6 or better...every one above average...in Ridge's player ratings, with Dempsey getting a 9. I don't remember ever seeing a men's team with every one above average before. Not sure when I last saw a 9, either. Anyway, now we've lost a couple more players to injury. But our team is deeper than I have ever seen it. Arena doesn't seem to dwell on the extra difficulties we face while missing so many of our regular starters. Instead, he fields the best team he can with the players he has. And, if the Honduras game is any example, the players respond positively; they're obviously comfortable playing where he puts them! I don't expect to see another 6-0 game anytime soon, but I do expect to see our players fighting for every ball, anticipating plays and playing as a unit again. I think that is what Arena has brought back to our game. Go USA!

  28. Ginger Peeler, March 27, 2017 at 9:29 a.m.

    Oops! Mike Woitella did the player ratings, not Ridge. Also, I meant I'd never seen a USMNT all get above averages before.

  29. Jay Wall, March 27, 2017 at 9:32 a.m.

    The International Journal of Financial Studies, 2 June 2016, Article by Marc Rohde and Christoph Breuer, Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Managment, German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark, Muengersdorf 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany cites 18 pages of detailed statics from a bibliography of 57 souces on the success of the top leagues and clubs worldwide. The following World Cup 2014 statistics, which support JK's observations, are: 93% of all players on the World Cup 2014 Champions team played on clubs ranked in top 30 clubs in the world; 81% of all players on the two teams in the final played on top 30 teams; 73% of all players on teams in semi-final played on top 30 teams; 66% of all players in the quarter final played on top 30 teams; 57% of players on teams in elimination round played on top 30 teams. Statistics document that the higher the level of everyday playing experience of the players on the field on a men's national team roster, especially the number of players playing on one of the top 30 clubs worldwide, the greater the chances for success in the World Cup. If that is the goal for the USMNT program then JK's observation that we need players playing everyday on the top 30 clubs in the world is right, depending almost exclusively on a domestic league is wrong and winning a CONCACAF game against lesser player's who play everyday at a lower level is not an accomplishment.

  30. Ben Myers replied, March 27, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.

    Bravo!

  31. Liane Sims replied, March 27, 2017 at 10:27 a.m.

    Of course he was right. He just isnt a good head coach but he was always more of an idea man and will be. Fact is most in Usa do not want the system changed at all because they have much to lose $$. $$$ trumps common sense. See how I used the word Trump in there....

  32. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 12:29 p.m.

    If it makes you feel any better in 2002 we were a bad handball call away from getting into the semi-finals with our current coach - without any players on 'Top 30' teams.

  33. :: SilverRey :: replied, March 27, 2017 at 1:22 p.m.

    My mistake:
    Kasey Keller - Tottenham (11)
    John OBrien - Ajax (17)
    Joe Max-Moore - Everton (24)

    So 12%

    Which is about what we have right now.

  34. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 27, 2017 at 1:34 p.m.

    Ok so JK made the rather unremarkable observation that players playing on better teams are generally better players. Wow, what insight! Unfortunately he was a poor tactician and terrible motivator. Which is why it's a good thing he's gone.

  35. Brian Kraft replied, March 27, 2017 at 4:24 p.m.

    Yeah, I'm with FPGN on this. Any one of us could come up with those numbers - or close - by just thinking about it for a minute. Everybody knows we'd do better if we chose players from Real Madrid and Chelsea, but what we have is Stoke and TFC. This situation is just one more thing that JK did not handle well, so I have to ask what the point is. I mean, the very best thing for player development is playing in the World Cup!

  36. frank schoon, March 27, 2017 at 10:11 a.m.

    Regardless of the big win against Honduras, the problem remains as to the criticism of Klinsman towards American players' and their development and now Landon Donovan ,likewise has stated about the same criticism. This has got to be taking care off, and this win does not solve that problem and criticizing Klinsman doesn't merit anything.

  37. Liane Sims replied, March 27, 2017 at 10:29 a.m.

    Frank, that win against a disappearing act Honduras together with U20 qualifying for World Cup means we are doing a great job developing players now. Who cares about everything else. Merica. Love it or leave it man.

  38. frank schoon replied, March 27, 2017 at 12:19 p.m.

    Liane, that win against Honduras, and qualifying for U20 has nothing with developing players. We've been in plenty of WCs , do you think that is because of great development here....I hope you were being sarcastic....

  39. Liane Sims replied, March 27, 2017 at 1:46 p.m.

    Hell yea I was being sarcastic. I agree with you completely.

  40. Roy Patton, March 27, 2017 at 2:42 p.m.

    Sport...it allows us all to have an opinion and technology allows us to spread our opinion farther than ever! It also allows us to be supportive....Go Bruce and Go the National Soccer Teams!

    Onwards and Upwards!

  41. Ginger Peeler, March 27, 2017 at 3:07 p.m.

    C'mon guys! You're arguing about player development and trying to hang it on Arena when that isn't even in Arena's contract, for heaven's sake! Nor is player development the subject of this article. Arena was hired to help the USMNT qualify and play in the 2018 World Cup. PERIOD!!! He did NOT replace Juergen as USSF technical director. As of this moment, he's playing his hand with the cards he was dealt. You make it sound as if Arena is only using MLS players because he dislikes those playing out of country. Keep in mind, he knows CONCACAF.

  42. Ginger Peeler, March 27, 2017 at 3:37 p.m.

    I think we all agree that our US players benefit greatly from playing abroad. I'll bet there are lots of our young players that would like nothing better. But, even if they get the invite,they need the experience of playing all the time. And, since FIFA set up that thing where players under 18 can't join the European "academies" as they used to, it's even more difficult for our guys. In the meantime, they play in MLS and often learn from outstanding international players entering their twilight (soccer-wise) years. Some of those international players are even returning to the USA. We do have more players from the USA playing abroad than ever before. And MLS is improving. It's all a slow process. There are still pockets of the country that swear soccer is a communist sport. I know, I lived there for too many years. We may, at times, be taking 2 steps forward and one step back.,,but we are getting noticeably better. Obviously, some of you have been involved in soccer for years as coaches, referees, even team parents. Obviously, too, are some who are great fans of the game with little actual experience. The wonderful thing about this sport is that it welcomes all of us. And whenever someone points out the studies done concerning sports and percentages, just remember that, while that info may help your choices if you're talking to a bookie, there are always statistics-defying teams that chaos: Leicester and Iceland, anyone?And I'll say one more time, since no one else has commented on its importance: we fielded a team missing at least 4 of our usual starters and we WON our game 6-0. That took a coach who had earned his players' trust and who was comfortable with his mix-and-match field assignments and was confident in his players' skills and abilities.

  43. Brian Kraft, March 27, 2017 at 4:13 p.m.

    Klinsmann's "success" as a coach was leading Germany to a semifinal loss when they hosted in 2006. So I researched. Germany has been to the last 16 WC finals, beginning in 1954. Their record in the tournament breaks down very evenly and quite astoundingly. They made the quarterfinals of every tournament, losing four times at that stage. They also lost four times each in the semifinals and finals. That means they've been in the finals half the time (eight) since 1954 and won half (four) of those! And in 2006 Germany hosted, which is a decided advantage. Hell, South Korea made the semi-final in 2002! So a semi-final loss for Germany, at home, is an arguably poor showing.

  44. Tadaia Torquemata replied, March 28, 2017 at 3:24 a.m.

    Brian Kraft I argued this point years ago when they decided to hire him raving about the WC '06 "status quo" German result, which was actually an underachievement as host nation. The rebuttal was always about how "horrible" Germany was at the previous Euro '04 and how he'd brought them back. But anyone that bothered to check would see that this has happened twice previously and Germany did the same thing each time... instead of putting a real coach in charge of the team they'd enlisted a World Cup legend to lift the masses and put good coaching support around them. Beckenbauer for WC '86 (after Euro '84) and Voller WC '02 (after Euro '00). Both were also poor coaches when they worked with clubs but at least they recognized it and took admin or figurehead positions. We'll never know but I'm willing to bet that if Klinsmann weren't in the way Löw might've taken them further. There was an odd amount of drama and tension on the German team that year.

  45. Brian Kraft replied, March 28, 2017 at 10:36 a.m.

    Interesting. Klinsmann is arguably as Californian as he is German, and judging by his failure at Bayern his methodology works better here than there. For a while...haha. He'll obviously never hold another high-profile coaching/managing job.

  46. Tim Schum, March 27, 2017 at 6:04 p.m.

    A couple of things that I don't believe have been mentioned in relation to PG's column (Paul - you are beginning to soften in your old age!).

    Contrary to Paul's long-held belief, there is a lot that goes on that is part and parcel of good coaching that he sometimes fails to give credence to.

    Namely how one addresses the psychological component of organizing a team. I think most coaches agree that it is something that is a lot like trying of master the game of golf. You never quite get the right handle on golf. And coaches never quite achieve the right formula for dealing with both the individual and collective psychological approach to team management. The coach may strike the right off-field approach with one team, but another team will have him scratching his head.

    JK was not all that bad and Bruce Arena certainly not the miracle worker that PG (based on one match!) makes him out to be.

    Let's not forget the JK led the team out of the "Group of Death" in Brazil. Let's give him credit for that. At times the US played very attractive soccer under his leadership.

    I think two things eventually ended his stay. The first was his failure to take Landon Donovan to Brazil. To not do so tipped the balance to those who were never comfortable with placing a foreign coach in charge in the first place, no matter his credentials. With that decision he lost a lot of credibility. Especially with players who looked up to LD.

    Secondly, only the true coaching greats (think Popovich at San Antonio today) outstay their welcome. Sooner or later, their messages become stale and, try as they might, they (to borrow a phrase) "lose the team."

    I think the Donovan decision started a downward confidence spiral for JK. He sped up the dissent by criticizing things American (our players' approach to the game; our league, etc.). We Americans do not appreciate being denigrated!

    Bruce Arena's record speaks for itself. It is exemplary. But perhaps he too might have overstayed his USMNT welcome first time around. His comments upon returning to the fold basically stated that he is a better coach today than he was 10 years ago.

    By that one could assume that it is not necessarily the tactical approach to coaching that he has refined over time, but the psychological aspect of team management. Think of all the personalities he has dealt with over time.

    The most difficult aspect of coaching is creating (and keeping) player confidence. The seeming confidence of the players displayed vs. Honduras isn't by accident. It most likely is the result of Bruce Arena applying the right psychological formula to this group of players.

    Fortunately for him it appears his job is short term - get the team to Russia! From there he can retire and try to unearth another mystery - namely the game of golf!

  47. Nick Daverese, March 27, 2017 at 6:09 p.m.

    During the 2002 World Cup I left my daughters wedding in Long Island early to get home to see a World Cup game maybe the US game really don't remember which one.

  48. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 28, 2017 at 1:48 p.m.

    You made the right decision Nick!

  49. Nick Daverese, March 27, 2017 at 6:12 p.m.

    I think it would be interesting if Klinnesmann ever gets a change to manage any team in the bundesliger ever again. I don't think he will ever get the chance ever.

  50. Ric Fonseca, March 27, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.

    Oh for heavens sake ladies and gents! Next thing that will be said is that Brucie Arena can (or is it "does"???) walk on water? And yes I agree with Ginger above re: the ratings, I think Mike W, much like Ragin Ridge M, have their favorites and will rank them a point or two or even three than what we mere mortals think they ought to have received. And the beat goes on!

  51. Scott Johnson, March 28, 2017 at 6:05 p.m.

    If I look back at JK: a) He was actually decent as a technical director--the quality of player being produced at the youth player is improving. b) He was a mediocre coach--not one entirely out of his depth, but one who eventually lost the locker room and needed replacing for that reason alone, whatever his other merits. c) His biggest liability was that he was a piss-poor politician, as evidence by the large number of people now dancing on his proverbial grave. (I don't recall JK's early success being met with widespread commentary proclaiming this to be proof of Bob Bradley's incompetence--that fact that Klinsmann is now enduring many such articles is testament not to his managerial skill, or lack thereof, but to the number of enemies he made during his tenure).

  52. Nick Daverese, March 30, 2017 at 1:36 p.m.

    What I could not stand about Klinnesmann was how the team defended away from the ball. The far side players were never back enough. So a cross from one side to the other was always an automatic completion for the opponent. It happened every game. All he had to do was make a simple coaching point to his guys to play 2 or 3 yards closer to the opponents players. That would keep those ball from being automatic completion. Then those passes would be more like a 50/50 ball.

    Didn't he or his coaching staff ever see that? Evidently not.

    so Klinnesmann may see the big picture, but he misses the little things that helps get you to that big picture.

  53. Jay Wall, April 3, 2017 at 7:12 a.m.

    Interesting observation Nick. But it also proves that most of our players lack the ability to read the moments in the game and to make the subtle instant changes, a step here, a suggestion to cover there, that make it significantly more difficult for opponents to be as successful. So we have a team with no on field leaders with the savvy to lead, choreograph and teach their teammates the subtle little things that take a team from mediocrity to success at the highest levels. Coaches and their staffs don't have the same view as their players on the field, even if they see something it's difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with players on the field, because by the time the message gets to the player, the play is over and if you try to communicate you break the player's focus for an instant. The United States men's national team needs an on field genius to lead the team, read the moments of the game and to instantly teach their teammates to see the game as it is instant by instant. And each instant the team must adjust perfectly, an instant too early the your opponent reads what you are doing, an instant too late and the opportunity is lost. So JK or BA or whomever the coach is needs on field leadership or the team will never play in the final 4 . . . and our system of player development doesn't yet develope players with that type of savvy and leadership. The coaching is too American, too much I must be in control and send the plays in from the sideline. Leadership, like good parenting, comes from mentoring and teaching to devlop players who are self-reliant and decisive on the field, who read the moments of the game expertly and who lead their teammates by seldom making mistakes. It's not leadership from the sideline JK lacked as much as leadership on the field that instantly mad the right things happen.

  54. R2 Dad, April 3, 2017 at 6:57 p.m.

    If I have to look at this for 2 weeks, I'm going to have to rebut. The following are all USMNT victories over the past 3 years that, arguably, are equal or greater accomplishments than the 6-0 Panama scoreline (FIFA ranking #53) from 3-24-16: On 6-11-16: 1-0 vs Paraguay (FIFA ranking #43), On 6-7-16, 4-0 vs Costa Rica (FIFA #19), On 1-31-16, 3-2 vs Iceland (FIFA #23), On 6-10-15, 2-1 vs Germany (FIFA #3), On 6-5-15, 4-3 vs Netherlands (FIFA #21), On 6-16-14, 2-1 vs Ghana (FIFA #43), On 6-1-14 vs Turkey (FIFA #26). Obviously, 1) Klinsmann didn't have Pulisic, 2) FIFA rankings can be misleading, and 3) some of these are friendlies. Point being, this article blowing sunshine up BA's backside is over the top, even for PG. Remember, other than Mexico CONCACAF is unimportant aside from being a vehicle for qualifying for the World Cup. Competition vs Europe, South American and Africa is what matters and on those accounts Klinsmann has arguably done better--so far.

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