Arena: U.S. ‘fight­ing for lives’ in WC qual­i­fy­ing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ron­ald Blum

Back in charge of the U.S. na­tional soc­cer team for the first time in a decade, Bruce Arena views the Amer­i­cans; state as ur­gent fol­low­ing losses in the first two games of the fi­nal round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

Bruce Arena opened a bin­der to a page with 48 names, his depth chart for the U.S. soc­cer team.

Back in charge for the first time in a decade, he views the Amer­i­cans’ state as ur­gent fol­low­ing losses in the first two games of the fi­nal round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing and al­ready has plans.

“We’re fight­ing for our lives start­ing March 24. We’re be­hind the eight ball,” he said. “We’ve got to close the gap, and we get six points in the next two games, the gap is closed.”

Dur­ing an hour­long ses­sion with reporters Tues­day, Arena said com­ments he made in 2013 about for­eign-born play­ers on the na­tional team were aimed at the U.S. player de­vel­op­ment sys­tem, not a crit­i­cism of Ger­man-Amer­i­cans who made up al­most a quar­ter of the 2014 World Cup ros­ter un­der Jur­gen Klins­mann.

“I was told to­day, some­body, they ref­er­enced me in Spain as the Don­ald Trump of soc­cer,” Arena said. “I think that I’m at fault ob­vi­ously for those state­ments, but I would like to clear that up. It’s ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous. It’s no way in the way I think.”

“I think the phrase for­eign na­tion­als is a very poor term, who­ever uses it, and I will not use it. I will not use dual cit­i­zens. They’re na­tional team play­ers,” he ex­plained. “The com­ment re­gard­ing for­eign-born play­ers, at the time I be­lieve was ref­er­enc­ing player de­vel­op­ment. And I was sim­ply say­ing that if our se­nior na­tional team pro­gram con­sists of a large mi­nor­ity of play­ers, large ma­jor­ity of play­ers that were born else­where, where are we go­ing with our de­vel­op­ment? It has noth­ing to do with who should be play­ing on the na­tional team, who should not.”

Now 65 and a mem­ber of the U.S. Na­tional Soc­cer Hall of Fame, Arena coached the U.S. from 19982006 and is the win­ningest coach in team his­tory. He led the Amer­i­cans to the 2002 World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals, their best fin­ish since the first tour­na­ment in 1930, then was fired af­ter a first-round elim­i­na­tion in 2006. He took over from Klins­mann last week fol­low­ing a 2-1 home loss to Mex­ico and a 4-0 rout at Costa Rica.

KEVORK DJANSEZIAN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, USA coach Bruce Arena, right, re­acts af­ter a USA goal was dis­al­lowed in the sec­ond half of their World Cup Group E soc­cer match against Italy in Kais­er­slautern, Germany. Back in charge of the U.S. na­tional soc­cer team for the first time in a decade, Bruce Arena views the Amer­i­cans’ state as ur­gent fol­low­ing losses in the first two games of the fi­nal round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

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