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Bruce Arena calls for ‘change in leadership’ for U.S. Soccer

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In the fall of 2016, Bruce Arena was brought in to rescue the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualification hopes. Needless to say, he didn’t get the USMNT into the World Cup, but he still wrote a tell-all book about his experiences, and the issues holding American soccer behind.

The book, titled What’s Wrong With Us: A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline, comes out on June 12 and addresses issues from the top of the National Team leadership, down through MLS, and into the youth ranks.

“They just don’t get it, the people that run the sport in our country. And U.S. Soccer has a major obligation to get it right,” Arena told the L.A. Times. “There needs to be a change in leadership.”

In the book, he criticizes the lack of technical knowledge of soccer among the higher ups in MLS and U.S. Soccer. They have created a successful business enterprise, but the leaders lack the ability to develop a successful soccer player, let alone a whole team of them.

He also calls out the declining percentage of players taking part in significant MLS matches. While 46% of the league is American born, only about a third of playoff rosters last year featured players eligible for the USMNT.

He also mentions that he was due to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as the USMNT head coach six months sooner than he did, but U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn was rushed to the hospital for an emergency heart transplant, putting a hold on contract negotiations.

“In all honesty,” Arena said, “I think if I had come in in April, it would’ve been a heck of a lot easier for us to qualify for a World Cup.”

Comments

  1. He has said all the wrong things after failing to qualify. Instead of saying hey I f@cked it up in T&T he made an add out of himself in the commentary of the Portugal game saying that Miazga and Brooks was going to be his starting center back combo going into Russia when he didn’t even call Miazga up. He has thrown out excuse after excuse. I wish people would realize all they needed was a POINT there. Forget losing to Mexico and Costa Rica under JK. He lost at home to Costa Rica when it really mattered. Guy is washed up and was a mistake to bring him back on. JK haters or not, Arena didn’t get it done. After the piss poor performance at the gold cup even though they won I still had doubts because of his tactics and selections. Just take some blame man

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  2. remember when bruce arena said it would be foolish to make major changes after we failed to qualify? he’s a joke.

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  3. At the end of the day, bruce arena’s failure will be the first line in his obituary, This book and everything he does going forward will be to try to repair his legacy.

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  4. I have a lot of respect for pre-2006 Bruce. But he was at the helm of the greatest failure in USMNT history and fails to take even a modicum of accountability. So I can’t take anything he says now seriously.

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  5. He has some valid points and some that aren’t. The bottom line is who cares what he thinks any more? His time has come and gone. As I pointed out when he was hired as JK’s replacement, his last 2 years at the Galaxy were hardly stellar. In fact, the team regressed. He needs to go quietly into retirement and keep his mouth shut.

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    • Whether you support him or not doesn’t matter I guess. I mean, now IS the time to raise all manner of questions regarding the program. This IS NoT the time to go gentle into that good night. And even if the game has progressed beyond his capabilities as you suggest, he is still in a unique position to comment-if only experientially. By default I can’t help but be curious. We need more outspoken peeps in the community to communicate. Not the other way around as you state. I would rather hear from the whole spectrum-not just the current gang-as I can then more clearly define what matters.

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      • If this was an honest account sure, but from the excerpts and the interviews, it seems to be a passing the buck account. There’s nothing I could have done differently but all these other people they were the problem.

  6. my two cents: bruce is a builder, like hunt or kraft or kronke or donovan. Bruce is one of the people who have shaped the league from the beginning. my two additional cents: Bruce might have been wiser to delay writing his memoirs for a few more years to allow his mind to be clear of recent events and to allow his great and valuable experience to be better appreciated by readers.

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    • Given his failure to get one point at Trinidad, I don’t think American fans would appreciate Arena’s experience for at least 10 or 15 years at which point his “wisdom” would be out of date and of little interest to publishers. His critique would also have more weight if he didn’t have a much more experienced and technical side than Trinidad.

      If the problem was MLS and USSF soccers inability to develop players why then did he pick an almost all domestic side and not play players that were developed or improved in Europe. At least in the excerpts he’s clearly just passing the buck, “none of this is my fault.”

      Also, he was in charge of Galaxy for eight years did he develop players to play for the national team or did he sit back and roll out European vets. Who did he develop during that time Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes, two players that rely on size and athletic ability? Omar who was responsible for multiple goals against during the Hex. Arena is far from the only problem but he’s the poster child for most of what’s wrong with MLS.

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    • No one wants to read what Bruce has to say in a “few more years”. His opinion might sell a few books, because we missed out on the WC, now. Once this cycle is over, no one will care, because every NT will be on to the next cycle with new coaches and new players.

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    • bruce arena had an exemplary coaching career that basically started at the university of virginia (a little help from wikipedia here): “Arena was the head coach of the Virginia program for eighteen years, during which he won five national championships (including 4 straight from 1991 to 1994) and amassed a 295–58–32 record. Additionally, he coached and developed many players at Virginia who would go on to play significant roles in the United States national team, including Claudio Reyna, Jeff Agoos, Ben Olsen, John Harkes and Tony Meola.”

      and then legendary success with dc united in the inagural mls season 1996 and continuing until 1998.

      and then legendary success bringing the usmnt to it’s famous quarter final finish in the 2002 wc in korea/japan.

      “Arena was hired by the U.S. national team to replace Steve Sampson as head coach in October 1998 following the team’s disastrous showing in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. His first game in charge was a friendly against Australia in San Jose, California on November 6, 1998. He then forged the team into a successful international side, and is the most successful coach in United States history: most international wins; longest home shut-out; best World Cup showing since 1930, reaching the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup, before a controversial defeat against Germany; and all-time best international FIFA Ranking (4th place, April 2006). Arena also won two Gold Cup championships in 2002 and 2005, with a third-place finish in 2003.”

      wikipedia then states, “The 2002 World Cup was the high point of Arena’s career as the U.S. coach” and i agree (no disprespect intended).

      then a legendary performance earning a tie against italy (who won the wc!) in africa in the 2006 wc.

      and then the legend continued as this great man built up the la galaxy into perennial champions with a 162-77-94 record over his eight years.

      suppose arena had simply then retired and spent the rest of his life living on a beach with his family and sipping margaritas? let’s pretend that he did that. and let’s pretend that on that beach he wrote his memoirs. who wants to read it? of course, many people would.

      it sounds like a lot of people posting here are saying that they don’t want to hear anything he has to say based on his work from 2016 to 2017. but if you just look at arena’s whole body of work from about 1978 to 2015, it’s so vast and so legendary and so great, you can’t allow this bad thing at the end to discolor the whole thing.

      that’s my two cents.

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      • He couldn’t have written a great book in 2002, but he let the game of American soccer pass him by. His soccer world ended long ago when the university system lost its influence. Again look at his time with LAG (the last 10 years roughly) It was the Galaxy’s move to bring in big name retirement projects like Beckham and later (Gerrard and Keane) that forced other clubs to take on the same model, pushing American players to the bench (the very system that Arena blamed on American owners without soccer experience was created under his watch). He used this system to win three titles. He rose to prominence as the USMNT manager by playing players who largely played in Europe, but when faced with a difficult qualifying system choose to play an almost entirely domestic line up when he needed one point (it wasn’t front office business professionals that selected these less technical players to face Trinidad it was him).

        He is dead on right that a majority of MLS clubs are not trying to develop US players. When Garber criticized Klinsmann for not promoting MLS, I said why should he MLS doesn’t try to improve USMNT. Arena was a huge part of the MLS system that pushed out the American player because it was easier to sign an affordable foreign player than invest in development staff and facilities. Arena continues to pass the buck, even his “we were in a huge hole” argument doesn’t hold up as his 1.5 pts per game would have only qualified the US once in the previous 4 cycles.

        If he wants to write a book about the beginning days of MLS or the 2002 World Cup, I’d read that for sure, but a book about how to fix US soccer, he is not an expert he’s the issue.

      • Nonsense. It doesn’t matter if he won’t ten straight Champions League titles if he can’t get one damn point at T & T. That FAILURE literally defines his career. All of his success, including 2002, was IN THE PAST. The sad reality was that when it mattered, Arena made excuses, disrespected his opponent, started a questionable lineup, and made tactical mistakes. As a result, he’s the first American coach to fail at qualifying in 32 years.

  7. I sure would like to have some confirmation from some other sources of Bruce’s story about being offered the job six months earlier. Certainly, someone assumed Flynn’s duties in his absence so either this was some sort of Flynn coup, Arena refused to work with anyone but Flynn, or a gross overstatement of the facts (as in someone asked if he’d think about it and he said well what kind of contract are we talking)

    I wonder if there is a chapter detailing his decision to spend the day before the match lecturing the press on how much better a manager he was than European managers because qualifying in CONCACAF was so much harder instead of preparing the team for the match.

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  8. “U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn was rushed to the hospital for an emergency heart transplant, putting a hold on contract negotiations.”

    This statement is so weird.

    Literally all heart transplants are emergencies, and a patient on the waiting list for a heart transplant is not exactly in great shape, so he shouldn’t have been involved in the contract negotiations to begin with.

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    • This. I guess it was down to Bruce, a high school swimming coach Flynn went to college with, and the cafeteria cashier..,you know because she’s been around forever and really knows what’s going on.
      Oof!

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  9. ““They just don’t get it, the people that run the sport in our country. And U.S. Soccer has a major obligation to get it right,””
    LOL, was he looking in the mirror when he said that?

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  10. Breaking news from Arena: the US has trouble in developing soccer players. I am surprised nobody else has mentioned that before, now it seems so easy to fix things

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  11. Isn’t that what’s happening right now? I guess we have a new prez, but after that I really have no idea who are the leaders of US Soccer.

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    • HAHA, exactly. Sad thing is, you just know Bruce considers himself one of the greatest managers of all time. You just know it.

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  12. The last revelation regarding the timing of his hiring did suggest we have problems at the top. We are currently farting around waiting on the presidential election and GM hiring to hire a soccer coach. He’s saying we wanted JK out and farted around on that while someone had health problems. That sounds like executive calendars are overriding sporting concerns. We need a coach and a good one. We do not need to kiss executive tush. This is a sign of an increasingly corrupted federation more concerned with its power and prerogatives than how the soccer team does.

    I also agree with him that we need to be run by “soccer players with MBAs” as opposed to just an interchangeable MBA who could just as easily ask to run GE and know just as little of that business. We do come across as led by MBAs who forget about stuff like home court advantage because they are concerned with ticket sales, even if we are so far in surplus we could afford to trade off other priorities in games that mean something.

    That being said, he overrates his own value, Bruce was at his best the first two games when he was short staffed and once he got players back he started repeating Klinsmann’s selection mistakes and blinders.

    I’d also say if you want this message out you spill the beans before the president election, otherwise you’re a day late and a dollar short.

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    • Thing is, most of us have recognized this for DECADES. Yet you only now see this thanks to BRUCE “COACH FOR LIFE” ARENA’s shady comments. Amazing.

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  13. Can Bruce be any more tone deaf…? Have some dignity and stop hocking your crappy book when you know your comments are just going to annoy every USMNT fan.

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    • Annoy every US fan? The man has something to say and he’s saying it. He’s about as qualified as they come in that department.
      Why must you come across whiney and …..well, French-like in every post? grow a pair already!

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      • He’s a glorified Lacrosse coach who learned how to coach from the college game. He never even grew up watching high level soccer yet he’s held the greatest enduring power of any coach in US history and every fan/player/administrator is ready for him to say goodbye forever. He doesn’t need your pathetic support and your mercy, he’s had more support than any coach in US soccer history. SEE YA BRUCE!!

      • Aah Lil Bobby, if only your parents got you some English tutoring, you might be able to keep up. I didn’t say Bruce wasn’t qualified, I said he was tone deaf. This is like SAF or Pep bloviating about their previous team getting relegated when they were at the helm during the last 3/4 of the season.

        I don’t really expect you to grasp this point, but maybe your PE coach can explain it slowly…

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