U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati appointed Bruce Arena ’73 the head coach of the United States’ Men’s National Team last Tuesday, after Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked on Monday, following five mediocre years and a quarterfinal exit in the 2014 World Cup.
Arena is the most decorated coach in American history, after leading the national team from 1998 to 2006. Under his stewardship, the team earned its highest finish in 80 years in 2002, when the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Arena will attempt to help the team regain its identity as serious competitors on the international stage. The team’s demise was highlighted by a 4-0 collapse against Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifying round. Klinsmann had been criticized for his tendency to blame his players for defeats instead of his own play calls or formations.
Arena began his coaching career at Cornell, starting off as the assistant coach for the Varsity B Men’s Lacrosse Team before moving on to coach soccer and lacrosse at the University of Virginia. Additionally, Arena played for the Red between 1971 and 1973, where he led the team to the 1972 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship Final Four, earning the Most Valuable Defensive Player honors for his goalkeeping.
Under Arena’s leadership, the national team’s first task will be regaining a foothold in the World Cup qualifying group, where the United States sits at the bottom after successive defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica. His first scheduled challenge is a home qualifier against Honduras in March, followed by a trip to Panama.
While Klinsmann will be applauded for integrating world class talent, such as Christian Pulisic, as well as emerging stars including DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood, his inability to get the team to compete with top nations did little to show that his long term vision for the program was coming to fruition.
Arena leaves his post at the L.A. Galaxy, where he won three MLS cups between 2008 and 2016 along with several Supporters Shields to cement the team’s position as one of the heavyweights of American soccer. At the Galaxy, Arena coached international stars, such as David Beckham, Giovanni Dos Santos and Steven Gerrard, as well as the United State’s own Landon Donovan.