Arena Returns, But Players Need To Step Up

Bruce Arena is back as U.S. Men's National Team head coach. Photo: U.S. Soccer
Bruce Arena is back as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach. Photo: U.S. Soccer

Bruce Arena is back and now we’ll be watching what comes next.

Now officially in his second stint as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena understands the pressures of leading the squad that since his departure in 2006 has had its hits and misses.

He takes over a national team still licking its wounds following two stunning defeats to Mexico (2-1) and Costa Rica (4-0) that left the U.S. with no points to start World Cup qualifying.

But the decision by U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati to replace Jurgen Klinsmann with Arena was the sensible move. With the U.S. men’s team now needing some stability and perhaps a new voice in the locker room, Arena brings with him a level of credibility that should resonate well with players. In the near term, the U.S. needs to right the ship and qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In addition to his eight years as USMNT head coach, which included a quarterfinals appearance in the 2002 World Cup, Arena has also enjoyed much success in Major League Soccer as a 5-time MLS Cup winner. Additionally, Arena during his tenure as head coach with LA Galaxy has shown an ability to deal with major stars and major egos.

While in Southern California, Arena has coached a host well-known players including David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. That will be useful in a dressing room that contains veterans, newcomers, American-based players and European-based players.

There will be a great deal of focus on what changes to tactics Arena will implement. Certainly he wouldn’t want to impose a 3-5-2. Right? But it’s also time for the players to bring their “A” games. While Klinsmann’s tactics at times were head scratching, it was the players who played poorly, missed passes, got nutmegged and were awful on first touches.

Arena can certainly settle things down and employ better tactics. But ultimately it will be the players who will need to get it done on the pitch.