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Arena addresses past dual national comments: ‘I embrace all players that are eligible to play’ for USMNT

Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arena insists he doesn’t care where you’re from. No matter where you were born and raised, Arena says he’s ready to welcome anyone with a passion to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Arena was officially named USMNT head coach on Tuesday afternoon, marking his second stint in charge of the senior group. One issue that was seen as a potential sticking point was past comments made by Arena about dual nationals. In the years leading up to his appointment, Arena stated his belief that the players making up the national team should be players born and raised in the United States.

“Players on the national team should be — and this is my own feeling — they should be Americans,” Arena told ESPN FC. “If they’re all born in other countries, I don’t think we can say we are making progress.”

Under Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. received a large influx of dual nationals. Stars like Fabian Johnson, John Brooks and Jermaine Jones played large roles throughout Klinsmann’s tenure, while others like Timmy Chandler, Terrence Boyd and Danny Williams joined the USMNT picture under the now-former USMNT boss.

When asked about his past comments on Tuesday, and whether he had an issue with foreign-born players playing for the U.S., Arena removed any doubt, stating he’s open to calling in anyone that matches his desire to represent the U.S. on the international level.

“I certainly don’t believe that that’s my attitude,” Arena said on Tuesday. “As a starting point, probably, one of my favorite players in my eight years as a national team coach was (dual national and Netherlands-raised) Earnie Stewart. I believe anyone that has a passport in the United States is certainly eligible to play for our national team. I embrace all players that are eligible to play.

“I just want to make sure their heart is in the right place and, when they put the U.S. jersey on, that they’re playing for that crest on their shirt. It’s important to me. I have a great passion for this national team and I expect the same out of our players. I’m all for any players that are eligible to play for us, and I look forward to working with our foreign nationals as well as our domestic players.”

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati echoed Arena’s statements, while providing further clarity on the views of dual nationals.

According to Gulati, the discussions between himself and Arena have centered more along the lines of the development program. Gulati says players like Jones and Johnson, who were developed in Germany, are certainly different than players developed in the U.S., and both types of player will certainly be considered going forward.

“If you’re eligible to play for the United States national team, you are available for selection,” Gulati said. “After that, the coach makes those decisions, but we are open to anyone, either born abroad or born here.

“There’s no thought process that one has an advantage over the other, as long as they’re committed to the U.S. National Team, which Bruce has re-emphasized.”


  1. Duh! Arena will pick the players he thinks will give the team the best chance to succeed.

    That is different than saying that relying on dual-nationals is an indication of the failure to develop better players domestically which was more or less what he said.

  2. Lalas makes his living by being critical (often incorrectly so). I don’t think Arena’s appointment will change that. Most of what Alexi says will still be wrong.

  3. it will be interesting to watch and see if Lalas turns into a pussycat now that JK is gone. He was pointedly critical of JK from his first game.

  4. I wonder if this plays a part in CCVs decision who to play for. I hope Arena cap ties him soon. Because if England wanted to change his mind, now is the time to do it. He wouldnt have a chance to do so until March and even then unlikely Arena would call him up for a WCQ.

    • I doubt CCV is going to change his mind but obviously no USMNT manager is going to call up an 18 year old CB with zero first-team club experience for a WC qualifier, especially given the position we are in at the moment.

      • Thats a good point. Meaning there will not be another chance to cap tie until this summers Gold Cup. Very doubtful it happens in any of these WCQers unless he breaks into the lineup at Spurs. I usually hate the idea of rushing to cap tie players, but CCV is one that i think we need to do. And arena didnt seem to be the type to rush players into the setup.

  5. What else would anyone expect him to say? He has now said the politically correct thing. What he does over the next few months may be somewhat different. JK was trapped in the same manner Arena was trapped before he got fired the first time. Aging players he would not replace. JK could never admit Bradley was mostly done, that Bradley and JJ didnt work. That he defense was a mess and that we had no attack. JKs unwillingness to sit his favs cost him his job.

    Arena now has to also make this team, his team, not JKs team with him running it. I also think the subtle message here is that you come to play hard or you dont come. None of what we saw in Costa Rica. I think some may disappear very fast and others more slowly

  6. it behooves us to include all eligible players domestic and abroad. I truly feel like the dual nationals we’ve called up the last several years are all about the shirt and what it represents. I have witnessed a passion that many of you may not have seen such as singing of the national anthem, tattoos of the flag or certain cities in the states, etc. I know the Arena signing represents the old guard to a lot of us but bear in my mind that we are in a precarious situation beginning the Hex, and “the” Bruce knows the pool and what it takes to qualify unlike any other that we could hire right now. Hats off to Sunil for sacking up and making this move, time will tell if it was the wise choice or not!

    • I think some of the problem is with the dual nationals is people wanting to read into their body language, etc. to make assumptions about their passion for the Nats. Fab Jo is a great player but doesn’t seem to get excited about anything (I’ve seen this with BM), just who he is. Chandler is a bit of a head case. People are different, doesn’t have anything to do with their effort and desire for the Nats.

    • if Gulati had pulled the trigger last November I would give him credit. Now it’s panic mode, no choice but to do it. Not gutsy at all imo. If he would have kept JK at this point, now that would have been gutsy, and certifiable.

  7. I hope we don’t brush these comments under the rug just so we can continue to insist Arena is a xenophobe. Let’s not call Arena a hypocrite if he plays dual-nationals, please.

      • Have you learned nothing from Donald Trump? It doesn’t matter what has been said, all you have to do is say something new.

      • As opposed to the lessons learned from the opposition? Maybe we should deny reality, and blame it on the Russians there’s public record of Arena’s statements (on multiple occasions)?

        Is that more to your political train of thought, since you breached that ignorant topic?

      • Haha thank you Eric W! I don’t even know how to respond to that one Old School, except to say “wtf??”

    • All this dual-national talk is boring and pointless. Of course Arena will play them. He wants to win and if they are good they are getting called in. Bradley did the same. If he didn’t he’d be as bad as Klinsmann with the pettiness of the Donovan situation.

      The more interesting discussion is how different will Arena’s first roster be to what we have been getting? Which players do we think will magically be back in the discussion? Which players will be all of a sudden discarded?

      For example, I think Omar Gonzalez’ stock just went up, but that’s just a guess for obvious reasons.

      • Ives wrote a good article about this, about who stands to benefit most/least from a coaching change. You won’t find that article here, of course.

        I hope you’re wrong about Omar…well, actually I think he might play better under Arena. Still though, he shouldn’t be starting when Brooks and Cameron are healthy and in form.

      • I really don’t think the roster in March will be all that different. Yes, the January camp will have some new guys and new old guys, but that’s what January camp always has been. Obviously, a lot of matches to be played in Europe to get injured in or gain or lose form and some guys could go on loan/transfer in January (Hyndman, Zelalem, Arriyibi, Green, Lennon?, Gaines?) You would think March qualifiers would lean more on in season European and Mexican based players than MLS stars just in preseason training.

      • For example, I think Omar Gonzalez’ stock just went up, but that’s just a guess for obvious reasons.

        Not a far fetched assumption, but it does depend on which Bruce Arena we’re referring to.

        A) The one that paid Gonzalez designated-player salary.
        B) The one that sold Gonzalez and replaced him with a mid-30 year old non-national.
        C) The one that claimed: “I think the majority of the national team should come out of Major League Soccer.

        I suppose it depends on if his definition of majority is 15% or higher.

      • Not if he wants to succeed. I’m done with Omar. He was horrible and, worse, his laziness was responsible for the first ticos goal. There has been a lot of talk in the past about defensive backs going forward, the plusses and minuses. I once wrote that managers who focus on players who just are good at going forward from the back are called ex-coaches. In effect, Bornstein cost Bradley his job and Omar and Brooks cost Klinsmann his job. You need to be solid defensively at the back and Omar isn’t the answer. I thought we could count of Brooks, but who knows now.

      • Haha Old School. You are more petty than Jurgen Klinsmann. You try too hard. You are still talking about “many”? Hilarious. Well this is another example of you being dumb while trying to be a smart a$$ and not realizing it. And you just corrected yourself without realizing it. I’ll play along with you. You do realize that there is a difference between the words “many” and “most/majority” right? Well if you don’t you should. You’re welcome. “Most/majority” implies more than 50 percent. “Many’ can mean anything. If 15 people out of 100 threw a rock at me I’d say many people threw a rock at me and I’d be correct.

        How did you just correct yourself? Notice above you just wrote “I suppose it depends on if his definition of majority is 15% or higher.” As I explained to you, “many” and “majority” are completely different. I used the word “many”. You just switched it to “majority”. Nice try but once again another fail by you.

      • Gary Page, I am surprised to hear that from you. Aren’t you Mr. “Let’s not overreact”? Let me just say that at this pace you will be “done” with the majority of the USMNT pool. Why? Because all of them have stinkers and all of them make mistakes. Copa Centenario Brooks is a God send, now he’s the worst? Same with Gonzalez. Bradley. Etc. None of these players are great, so it’s obvious they will be up and down in performance. There is no current “great” player in our pool. And if there was, even the great ones have bad games/performances.

  8. It’s interesting we never heard Arena provide should commentary when Bradley introduced the likes of; Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Jose Torres, David Yelldell, Edgard Castillo, Terrence Boyd, Alfredo Morales, Timothy Chandler or John Brooks – the list goes on and on.

    When Arena was asked (and not referenced in the article) he originally replied: If i made those comments, I certainly don’t believe that that’s my attitude.”

    If you made them? Doesn’t exactly sound like he’s standing by that sentiment now for obvious reasons.

    • Well, to be fair, I don’t think I would remember my exact comments on a subject from years prior, so may just be clarifying his stance on the matter. Furthermore, the original comment didn’t make it seem (IMO) that he was against dual nationals, but that if we had to use dual nationals, it meant we were not providing a good track for our youth here in the USA. In essence, if we had a Jermaine Jones that was born in the USA, we wouldn’t need the Jermaine Jones from Germany, that happened to have US nationality. But, since we have obviously lacked that trend in the past, we still need the dual nationals. Again, just my opinion, but I obviously don’t know what’s in Arena’s head. Lastly, the most important aspect is what he brought up at the end. If you are going to put on our jersey, it’s because you love this country, regardless of where you were born. So long as you are in some way shape or form American and you truly fight for the crest on your shirt, you are welcome. If it is just a place to play because you don’t/can’t play on another team, then good riddance.

      • Arena should become a politician. He has learned to spin and deflect with the best of them.This is like those statements that go, “If i said that and someone was offended, I’m sorry they feel that way.”

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