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Checking the success rate of national rehires as Arena takes U.S. reins

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Some nations have never done it, while others have made a habit; As Bruce Arena prepares for his second stint as United States men’s national team boss, what has history shown us regarding these repeat performances?

While each case is quite unique given both the nature of player turnover at the national team level and the relative burdens of a given program, perhaps there’s something to be learned from going back to the well.

[ MORE: Notable quotes from Arena, Gulati]

Two nations have done this in somewhat religious fashion: Brazil and the Netherlands. While the former was simply hearkening back to the golden days, reintroducing three bosses who had won the World Cup, the Dutch operated in an unorthodox manner in repeating many times.

Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Italy, and Belgium have all gone back to the drawing board once in the last few decades, while some nations: England, Spain, France, Germany.

I’ll admit that I was nonplussed at the idea of Bruce Arena re-appointment. He’ll do fine, as it would take some serious failing to miss out on the World Cup. But I’m hoping this exercise will lead me in a different direction, one of excitement.


Let’s begin in CONCACAF, where Javier Aguirre earned two stints with Mexico. Aguirre led El Tri to the Copa America final in 2001 and oversaw a terrific escape from the 2002 World Cup group stage, where Mexico was drawn with Croatia, Italy, and Ecuador. Mexico then lost to the USMNT in the Round of 16 (Landon Donovan!!), and that was that for stint No. 1.

Club Atletico de Madrid v RCD Espanyol - La LigaHis return will sound super familiar to U.S. fans. Aguirre was brought back to Mexico in the wake of foreign manager Sven-Gorn Eriksson’s losing two of his first three Hex matches. Upon his hiring Aguirre vowed, “I add, gentlemen, that I want the player who comes, come with pride, to recover the identity that comes with our love for the shirt”.

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Aguirre led Mexico back into the World Cup, and won the 2009 Gold Cup. El Tri finished second in its World Cup group but again bowed out in the first knockout round (3-1 to Argentina).

Verdict: Hard to call this anything but a success.


Marcello Lippi won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, which is nice we guess. He left the gig of his own volition, only to return after Italy lost at the quarterfinal stage of EURO 2008. In South Africa, Italy gained two points from a poor group with New Zealand, Slovakia, and Paraguay, and Lippi quit.

Verdict: This one didn’t work.


Georges Leekens is seemingly a rare bird in our study, a coach who disappointed in his first run but got another shot. Belgium failed to advance from the 1998 World Cup’s group stage, the first time the Red Devils missed the knockout rounds since 1982. Leekens was brought back in 2009, and could not help Belgium to EURO 2010.

Verdict: If at first you don’t succeed… don’t do it again?


Nelson Acosta led Chile from 1996-2000, and advanced to the Round of 16. Chile drew all three group games before falling to finalists Brazil in the first knockout round game. He came back for 2005-2007, with Chile not in the 2006 World Cup and bowing out in the quarters of the 2007 Copa America. Oh, and he quit midway through that tenure.

Verdict: Not great.


Argentina‘s repeat customer was Alfio Basile, who won two Copa Americas and a Confederations Cup, though a promising 1994 World Cup run was scuppered by one of Diego Maradona’s failed drug tests. Basile was brought back after the 2006 World Cup, and quit after a Round 10 loss in CONMEBOL qualifying that saw La Albiceleste swept by Chile.

Verdict: Rough.


As for the repeat offenders, Brazil and the Netherlands.

Mario Zagallo, Carlos Alberto Parreira, and Luiz Felipe Scolari were all brought back to Brazil after lifting World Cups. It’s worth noting that Parreira had a brief stint in charge before his Cup winning stint as well.

Mario Zagallo (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Zagallo had won two World Cups as a player, too, before leading Brazil to the 1970 World Cup final. He returned almost a quarter century later, and led the nation to the final. They lost to hosts France.

[ MORE: Klinsmann hurt by own expectations ]

Parreira won the 1994 World Cup in the United States, returning 8 years late for a four-year run. Brazil conceding one goal in three group stage games, then blasted Ghana 3-0 before again falling victim to France, 1-0, this time in the quarters.

Scolari won the 2002 World Cup, and came back for the 2014 edition in Brazil. We know how that ended, with semifinal embarrassment at the hands of Germany.

Although any World Cup that ends before the final will be viewed as a failure by some Brazil supporters, none of the above results were true embarrassments.

VerdictHard to judge because, well, it’s Brazil.


The Dutch have turned over the same leaf many times, and their bravery was rewarded several times.

Louis Van Gaal‘s first tenure with the national team was rough, as the Netherlands missed the World Cup for the first time since 1986. His return, however, was sensational; Holland ran to the 2014 World Cup semifinal, only falling to eventual runners-up Argentina.

The legendary Rinus Michels (David Cannon/Allsport)

The other returnees had varied success. Rinus Michels had five spells in charge. He first led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final, where they lost to West Germany, and came back to lead the team to the EURO 1988 title. They beat West Germany in the semis, and Michels is an undoubted Dutch legend.

[ MORE: Short-termism from USA? ]

Guus Hiddink led Holland to the 1998 World Cup semifinals, only losing to Brazil in penalties. He came back in 2014 to succeed Van Gaal, and the Dutch saw misery. Holland finished fourth in their qualifying group and missed EURO 2016.

Dick Advocaat navigated a tumultuous spell of Dutch football to lead the nation to the 1994 World Cup quarterfinals, where they fell to eventual champions Brazil. In his return, Advocaat led the Netherlands to the EURO 2004 semis and a surprising loss to Portugal. This was not viewed kindly.

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Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

Bundesliga: Schalke spoils Gladbach’s chance to go top

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Michael Gregoritsch scored one goal and set up another as Schalke dealt a blow to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga title hopes in a 2-0 win on Friday.

In the Bundesliga’s first game of 2020 after the winter break, Gladbach’s defense was frequently overwhelmed by host Schalke’s rapid team moves, especially on the counterattack.

After a string of first-half saves by Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer kept the score 0-0 at the break, Schalke scored twice early in the second half to secure the win.

Gregoritsch took the ball out to the left flank in the 48th minute, stretching the Gladbach defense and opening up space in the middle. He then passed for Suat Serdar to charge through the gap in Gladbach’s back line and score from the edge of the penalty area.

Ten minutes later it was Gregoritsch’s turn to score, finishing off a counterattack which ran almost the length of the field, with a lay-off pass from Benito Raman.

“We had trouble the whole game with Schalke’s movement. They put a lot of pressure on us and it was hard to play the ball out too. We gave them too much room,” Sommer said in televised comments. “We had chances in the first half when we could have scored a goal, but in general we were not good enough today.”

As well as his key role in attack, Gregoritsch also made a key intervention in defense, clearing Marcus Thuram’s header off the line in the 38th in what proved to be one of Gladbach’s best chances.

“When it works like this, it’s really great,” Gregoritsch said, crediting Schalke’s home crowd for the win. “We’re at home and we can hit the gas pedal a bit more with the 12th man here.”

Starting in goal for Schalke due to a suspension for first-choice Alexander Nubel, Markus Schubert made a good reaction stop to deny Gladbach’s Patrick Herrmann just before the break.

Gladbach stays two points behind leader Leipzig and can be overtaken by third-place Bayern Munich on Sunday if Bayern beats Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach was the surprise leader earlier in the season as its fans started to dream of a first German title since 1977, but it’s started to stall, having won just one of its last five games in all competitions.

Schalke moves up one place to fourth, overtaking its fierce rival Borussia Dortmund, which visits Augsburg on Saturday.

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.