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Bruce Arena Named New Head Coach of USMNT

Bruce Arena (AP Photo)

Bruce Arena (AP Photo)

On the heels of an unprecedented 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 loss in Costa Rica to open the final round of World Cup Qualifying, US Soccer announced on Monday afternoon that they were parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann, who had been in charge of the team since 2011, and had been the Technical Director for the last three years. Coming in will be Bruce Arena, who is now in his second stint as USMNT coach, after an eight year spell from 1998 to 2006.

Arena, a native of Franklin Square, NY, led the US to their best World Cup finish in 80 years, when the team reached the quarterfinals in 2002, before crashing out in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup. In between his departure and his return, Arena first coached the New York Red Bulls from 2006 to 2007 before joining the LA Galaxy in 2008, a post he will now leave. He was reintroduced to the media on Tuesday afternoon, almost 24 hours after Klinsmann was officially relieved of his duties, via conference call.

The Franklin Square, NY native was joined by US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, who began by addressing the firing of Klinsmann, thanking him for his “many, many successes,” which included victory in the 2013 Gold Cup and getting out of the “Group of Death” in the 2014 World Cup. Gulati also emphasized that the decision was not based over the last two matches, but came after considering the USMNT’s poor results over the last two years. The topic of conversation, though, quickly switched to Arena.

In his first words as the newest coach of the USMNT, Arena said that he’s “thrilled to be back with the national team,” adding, “I think it’s the greatest honor for a coach in our country.” Arena also said he “never expected to be back in this role,” and that he “would have done it for free.” He feels “better prepared for this job than I was in 1998,” and in the ten years since leaving the post, he said he had learned a lot by going back to the club level, citing working with big players and evolving tactically as aspects that would make him a better US coach the second time around.

Getting into his coaching style, Arena did not speak with many specifics, as could be expected by a man who said he was only approached for the job the day before, but certainly had a basic plan for the next year and a half, as his contract runs through the 2018 World Cup. Prioritizing team chemistry, Arena said, “I really believe that individually and positionally we have good players, and we’ve just got to get them working together as a team.” On the team’s style, Arena remarked that “the American quality has certainly been teams that are hard to play against.” He also admitted that his rosters, though, would not feature too many changes from those of the recent past.

Arena also addressed some previous controversial comments in regards to the dual-nationals that have played for the USMNT in recent times. Arena had been a critic of Klinsmann’s inclusion of many players born outside of the United States to American parents, telling ESPN the Magazine in 2013, “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.” Today, he made his attempts to clarify.

“If I made those comments, I certainly don’t believe that that’s my attitude,” Arena said, and then used the example of Earnie Stewart, Dutch by birth, who represented the US in Arena’s first stint as the US coach. ““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 the shirt,” he added. Gulati justified Arena’s 2013 quotes, saying that they were a critique of the US development system, not an attempt to bar those born outside of the United States.

Bruce Arena’s first match in his second venture as USMNT head coach will come on an undecided date in January against an undecided opponent, before the team returns to qualifying for the World Cup on March 24 against Honduras.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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