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An MLS return for Arena?

Everybody’s favorite unemployed American soccer coach apparently has that coaching itch again.

You already knew about Bruce Arena’s public interest in the Scottish National Team job. Now there are rumblings out of Chicago that the former U.S. national team and Red Bulls coach has put himself in the mix for the Chicago Fire head coaching vacancy.

While sources in Chicago could not confirm whether Arena has, in fact, been interviewed, the word in Fire land is that Arena is a candidate. SBI has confirmed Denis Hamlett, Frank Klopas, Paul Mariner, John Spencer and Mike Jeffries as candidates who have actually been interviewed by the Fire. Arena joins former Fire star Hristo Stoitchkov on the list of coaches who have been linked to the job.

So why would Arena return to MLS so soon after parting ways with the Red Bulls? Considering how has past two jobs ended, you can’t really blame Arena for wanting to jump back in and show that he is still the same coach who won titles with D.C. United and led the U.S. national team to the World Cup quarterfinals. If true, this latest development does come as a surprise considering the last I heard about Arena he was going to take it easy in 2008 and do some TV work while he spent his settlement money from the Red Bulls.

It would certainly be an interesting union. Consider the Fire, a team whose ownership is still angry over Juan Carlos Osorio’s departure. What better way to get back at the Red Bulls than to hire their old coach and have him succeed? Arena’s mixed results with the Red Bulls should be a cause for concern, but if Fire owner Andrew Hauptman has taken control of the coaching search, anything is possible.

Could Arena succeed in Chicago? He can still coach and the Fire does have some good talent, but has he learned from the mistakes he made with the Red Bulls? Has he regained the desire and motivation he seemed to lack throughout his tenure with the Red Bulls?

We will find out Chicago’s choice soon enough. Expect the Fire to have a coach in place before next weekend’s MLS Combine. I did have Denis Hamlett pegged as the favorite, but with the search developing more and more twists, it is becoming close to impossible to project what will happen next.

What do you think of the idea of Arena possibly taking over the Fire? Love it? Not buying it? Think he would outperform Juan Carlos Osorio? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Tony in Qland may be right.

    The job may be BA’s. How can anyonw turn him down…..unless they know the actual game.

    Passed him by.

    I was usually yelled down when pointing out BA’s obvious, obvious flaws, even when he was doing well. Not hard to see if you understand soccer.

    Right place, right time.

    He helped th egame here and he was needed for where the game was at that time.

    BA has shown that he really can’t coach the game at a high level. He really hasn’t.

    Sorry folks.

  2. steven goff just posted that he has spoken to arena about the rumors and arena replied that there is NO TRUTH TO THEM. so everyone can relax.

  3. I want Mariner and if not him then Spencer. I don’t know about Bruce though……I feel like if we get him it’s soooooo much more of a risk then getting Mariner or Spencer.

  4. I hope he finds a coaching job somewhere, if I have to listen to him calling games ever again it will be too soon. It would be a terrible hire for Chicago, but I hope they do it, just so I can watch games on ESPN 🙂

  5. Wow – there is better writing and more insightful observation in the comments section here than there is on most online soccer publication’s front line pieces. Good stuff – especially Sean’s comment.

    As for Arena, I’d have to say the job is his. It will take a pretty steely owner to turn him away if he wants the job. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, I don’t think it is a good idea. With the Men’s team in 2006, The Bruce fell into a pattern of searching for ways to get his favorites on the field. Instead of letting Convey go head to head with Beasley for the left mid (a battle that Convey looked to be winning) he shifted Beasley to the right and took Dempsey off the field. Big mistake. And instead of trying options at left back, he moved Eddie Lewis there – huge mistake, disastrous.

    This was different than the guy we saw in 2002 who was so willing to play the kids (Donovan, Beasley). With the Redbulls, he repeated the 06 pattern – acquiring old guys, playing old favorites, not trusting kids. (I mean, he couldn’t work with Wynne or Dunnivant? In MLS you succeed by getting kids to play well.) Once can be an aberration. Twice may be a pattern. If he gets the Fire job, will he trust young players like Barrett and Rolfe? The recent evidence suggests he won’t.

  6. kpugs: nice idea, but you should know by now that Fire fans NEVER stop whining.

    In fact, I suspect what they’re most mad at Guppy about is that this prolonged coaching search is keeping them from bitching about their coach for a few more days. Now they’re just bitching about the process.

  7. A couple of years ago all these guys were calling him The Greatest American Coach Ever, now all of a sudden he’s awful. Funny how that works.

    I’ll tell you what, if the Fire hire him at least the Fire fans will stop whining about their coaches being “stolen” against their will. They’ll have Arena AND way too much compensation for Osorio. Win win.

  8. I would be willing to bet that an Arena-led Fire would be better than the JCO-led RBNY in the 2008 season.

    Bruce Arena’s resume obviously dwarfs those of every other reported candidate for the Fire opening. We all know what he has done.

    We also all know that he has flamed out of his last two jobs. But I think the USA was more than a bit unlucky to get knocked out in round 1 of the 06 World Cup — and a bit lucky to go as far as they did in 02.

    And nobody should care that he failed in New York. Nobody has done the job there. If relative success in New York were the barometer, then the Fire should bring Octavio Zambrano back from his Moldovan exile.

    In sum, Arena probably is neither the genius he was made out to be before Germany nor the idiot that the Big Soccer types have deemed him since that failure.

    The real question is whether his arrogance would allow him to focus on the job in Chicago. Remember how he loved to mock the hicks of Columbus and their alleged soccer ignorance? Does he see Chicago as a slightly smaller version of New York or similar to DC, with sophisticated media and fans, or just a bigger cowtown in a flyover state of soccer moms? If it’s the latter, he had better stay out East.

    Stoichkov — now that is the guy that the Chicago fans should fear in the coach’s seat ….

  9. Anyone know if the buyout of his Red Bull contract precludes him taking another MLS job? Would he forgo some of the compensation attached? Would the Red Bulls be entitled to any compensation for him jumping right back into the ring?

  10. Nice you used a skinny mug shot of BA there Ives. He has a few more chins right now.

    I would love for this to happen. Why? I’m an RB fan of course and understand BA’s ability is not good enough for even the MLS game now. Soccer in this country has passed him by.

    Organization, having players know there roles and keeping players in great shape worked in clueless early MLS, and shocked other nations on the wrold stage who didn’t scout us, care about us and treated us like a joke…thus making the surprises possible.

    You actually have to know about the game of soccer now.

    That leaves donut boy out of it. Hire away Chicago. Please!

  11. Sean is right about Bruce’s arrogance. As a New York fan it irritaded me that he treated the fans like annoying pests. And yes, he seemed to treat the jounalist as idiots and himself so above everyone else.

    When he had fire in the belly (early MLS days and early USNats days) Bruce had something. But his desire is gone. In NY, he lacked the passion. It showed in his words and attitude and it showed in the way the team played. Sure, other coaches also had problems in NY but Bruce has no one but himself to blame for his tenure. After all, he’s the guy who traded two defenders now on the national team radar (Donivant and Wynne) at a point when the Red Bulls defense was impressing, and turned the team from good to mediocre. And that was his doing.

    Bruce, stay in the TV booth for another year or so.

  12. I like Sean’s post. There is no need for any coach to be arrogant so I’m not condoning that.

    But still Bruce has proven to be the most successful coach in US history at every level. He succeeded at UVA, DC United and USMNT in ways that set a new standard for each team/league.

    In New York, some of Bruce’s player personnel decisions (Reyna, Dunivant, Wynne) and reactions (on Angel during the playoffs) were questionable and he had only one brief interaction with the fans during his tenure (he should have been more available to season ticket holders) but other than that, I thought he did a good job.

    For reasons that are not being made public, Bruce did not work out for the New York Red Bulls and there could have been other factors in play.

    If Bruce throws his hat in the ring, I’ve got to believe that he is still interested in coaching; hopefully for Chicago, he would be.

  13. I don’t think Arena is the type of coach that the Fire need. Osorio I think was as important for his connections to columbia and englad as he was for his coaches. I would like to get another coach that would have the same amount of connections.

  14. Uh oh. this doesn’t sound like a very good idea

    hey ives, why don’t you just come work in Chicago for the Sun-Times — we’re getting most of our chicago news from you anyways.

  15. I would really like to see Bruce hired as the coach of the Chicago Fire! This fact would add yet another element to the Fire-New York rivalry: swapped coaches. Who does better in the head-to-head games (last year, Bruce had two wins against the Fire).

  16. It would be the greatest irony, and a terrific story. Bruce Arena switches roles with JCO and coaches one of his nemesis – Blanco! Imagine the fodder it would give Wynalda in the booth – could you imagine having to listen to him or Balboa drone on and on about it!!!!

    That being said – I couldn’t wish this upon anyone – especially the Fire. I am an NYRB fan, but I think that Chicago has a shot at building a strong mutliculti brand in Chicago if they can bring in the right coach and have another good year. I want to see other MLS teams strong (except NE and DC) and thriving, but I think Il Bruce could have a negative impact on Chicago. He has the ability to suck the enthusiasm out of fans AND his players.

  17. Sean summed Arena up perfectly with two words and a hyphen: ass-clown.

    If I was a Fire fan I’d be praying that they don’t hire Arena. Having to see his mug making those arrogant expressions of disbelief on the sidelines every week would drive me nuts. You guys know the look I’m talking about, he gets upset after a call doesn’t go his way or something, sits on the bench, crosses his legs (femininley), shakes his head and has that look like he’s thinking “unbelievable”. So arrogant, how do any players get along with this guy?

  18. This is a pretty startling development. I also felt that he might take some time off from coaching and later find just the right job. It’s unclear whether Arena’s inability to succeed in NY was connected with poor performance on his part, or whether he was just another example of a good coach going to NY and then underachieving.

    Certainly, he brings a far more impressive resume than any of MLS assistants that have been linked with the job.

  19. Bruce gets bored easily, I think. He gets into the job, and slides out of the grind required to do the job. That’s what I gather from his attitude and comments in the past. I don’t think it will ever change. For Chicago’s sake, I hope be gets passed over in favor of someone who really wants it and will see it through to the end, which, in retrospect,I don’t think he did with RBNY.

  20. My God … no.

    I’m a former sports writer. One of my first big assignments was covering Indiana University basketball in the early 90s. Which means Bobby Knight.

    So I’ve seen enough of arrogant ass-clown coaches who pretend that the inner workings of their sport are so arcane, so esoteric, that only with fellow coaches can they truly talk openly. Understand, I grew up in rural Indiana in the 70s and 80s, and there was no greater folk hero than Robert Montgomery Knight. But once I got around him a few times, I was appalled.

    Which brings me to Il Bruce. Bruce seems to have found solace (like Bernd Schuster and others in the profession) in this type of arrogance-fueled double-talk. “You f–king journalists,” he whines, like we grew up taking dictation from pompous assholes instead of watching, loving and learning about the game he coaches.

    All of it is a dodge. It’s a way to avoid responsibility for failure and a way to avoid admitting that sometimes success is the result of fortune, not the Coach’s Master Plan.

    So, please, no Bruce. I know he can coach a bit, but so can about 20,000 other men on the globe. Let’s find one of them, one who’s loved the game from childhood, not a self-important lacrosse convert.


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