The winningest manager in USMNT appears set to return, and the 62-year-old is here to dig the United States out of a 2-game hole in World Cup qualifying.
That turnaround is priority number 1 for the former LA Galaxy boss, and fans will probably see a stark contrast to the Klinsmann era.
Bruce Arena has always done things his way, both with the U.S. in the past and during his time with the Galaxy, but he’s done nothing but win while doing so. He won championships at Virginia, MLS titles with D.C. United and Los Angeles, and brought the United States 2 Gold Cups and a World Cup quarterfinal. He is unquestionably the most successful manager in US history.
There are plenty of players who will benefit from Arena’s hire, many who are local. MLS standouts like Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Matt Hedges, Bill Hamid, and Dax McCarty could all see not just call-ins but significant playing time. Arena’s domestic tenures have made him an expert on domestic talent.
Arena is also a superior motivator. Players have always given their all for him up and down the ranks, something not always apparent under Klinsmann. The most recent tactical surprises clearly left the players searching for answers, and they seemed to lose faith in his leadership.
However, not everything is sunshine and roses with Arena. His demeanor can sometimes be abrasive, both towards fans and media. Klinsmann was often passively insulting towards US fans, but he always at least attempted to shroud his disdain in a veil of professionalism. Arena is far more blunt.
In addition, the disastrous 2006 World Cup, which cost Arena his job in the first tenure, remains a serious blemish on his resume. The U.S. struggled mightily in an admittedly tough group, losing to the Czech Republic and Ghana before drawing with defending champions Italy.
But even that wasn’t enough to tarnish his resume beyond repair. Sunil Gulati himself said after announcing Arena’s dismissal, “The direction Bruce has set is very, very positive. We didn’t get the results we wanted in the World Cup, but Bruce didn’t become a bad coach in three games with a few bad bounces of the ball.”
Another point of interest about Bruce is his disdain for foreign-born internationals. With
Finally, it’s important to note that, with the immediate goal of turning around the minor crisis, it’s likely that Arena will discontinue a number of the youth projects that Klinsmann had in the test tubes. The next two years will be solely results-based, and Arena will do what’s best to win now, as he always has. Christian Pulisic’s rising star is most certainly safe, but the prospects of Julian Green, Lynden Gooch, and other youngsters may see a decrease in time while they get stuck in at their clubs. While one of Klinsmann’s biggest weaknesses was his reactionary mindset on calling young players in, but Arena will probably not have any interest in scouting the US player pool, at least not through 2018.
Bruce Arena will be a mixed bag with the USMNT, but he’s what they need to pick up the pieces at this juncture.