The reality of the situation is clear: the U.S. national team is on the back foot and scrambling.
With Jurgen Klinsmann fired, the U.S. is now without a head coach and technical director.
It has become a rudderless ship.
[ MORE: Klinsmann’s tenure unraveled ]
After Klinsmann’s firing U.S. Soccer’s president Sunil Gulati now has a big decision to make and ProSoccerTalk understands Bruce Arena is the only real candidate to take over, with a lack of so-called “top class” coaches currently available in world soccer the veteran coach is the best option.
UPDATE: Arena hired by USMNT
Not to belittle Arena’s superb achievements in the game, both with the U.S. national team in the past and in Major League Soccer, but his appointment would scream of short-termism.
It is all based around one thing: qualifying safely for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. After that tournament, Arena will likely be replaced by a long-term hire. To me, 18 months seems a very long time to have somewhat of an interim tag around your neck…
[ MORE: Klinsmann fired ]
Anyway, first things first, after two games of the Hexagonal tournament that target of reaching a World Cup, a very modest one at that, is in real jeopardy. So, hiring a man who knows all about CONCACAF and its quirks seems solid enough. There will be some bumps along the way though.
First and foremost, Arena will likely cull many of Klinsmann’s squad from his first roster and there seem to be plenty of issues behind-the-scenes in uniting the players as one unit. Arena will have his work cut out to do that but the carrot he will dangle in front of all of their faces is clear: “do you want to go to the World Cup?”
That should work. Should being the operative word. Arena will also likely have plenty of familiar names rallying around him with Landon Donovan surely involved somehow, plus Brad Friedel and countless other blasts from the past.
With so much pressure to be placed on Arena for the two World Cup qualifiers next March against Honduras at home and Panama away, a haul of four points is the bare minimum the U.S. needs.
Panama isn’t an easy place to go, as Mexico found out in their 0-0 draw last week and as for Honduras at home, they have never been an easy opponent for the U.S. who have had two narrow wins, a 3-1 win, a draw and a 2-1 defeat in Honduras in their last five meetings.
Arena will have work to do but on paper the U.S. should prevail in both games and get themselves back on track ahead of a very winnable game at home against Trinidad and Tobago in June and then the daunting trip to the Estadio Azteca a few days later to face Mexico. Nine points from those four games would be great. Anything less would leave the USMNT scrapping around for fourth place in the Hex and a playoff spot.
That’s the reality of the situation. Everything is geared towards qualifying for the World Cup in Russia. Failure to do that would have huge financial implications for U.S. Soccer as a study revealed that the Mexican economy would have lost out on $600 million if they had failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Think about that.
The infrastructure Klinsmann put into place with the U.S. youth teams and the coaching staffs will remain largely untouched in the short-term across U.S. Soccer. Everything will continue to tick over in the less important departments.
For the next 12 months one thing matters: winning as many of the remaining eight World Cup qualifiers as possible to seal qualification to an eight-straight World Cup.
All of the long-term goals of U.S. Soccer remain up in the air.
First and foremost they need to get their national team in check and relying on a steady head and someone who has achieved this feat twice in the past and led the U.S. to a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 seems like the smart play.
It’s also a short-term play. Let’s call it what it is.