Back to future: Cup vets, Arena reunite
san jose, calif.» DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard were with Bruce Arena the last time the U.S. coach guided the Americans into World Cup qualifying — way back 12 years ago.
“It’s a long time for a coach, too, I might add,” cracked the 65-year-old Arena, “I had a lot more hair 12 years ago.”
Jozy Altidore played for Arena in his debut season of Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls in 2006 and part of ‘07.
The Americans are counting on that familiarity and experience in big matches when they face Honduras at home Friday in World Cup qualifying.
“He’s been around U.S. Soccer for a very long time. I think that helps him a bit in his approach,” Altidore said after Tuesday’s training in a steady rain at Avaya Stadium. “He’s a guy that everybody’s really comfortable with and there’s no adjustment period, which is good. He was one of my first pro coaches, so I know him well, his style and everything, so it’s nothing new. It’s good to have him back.”
Arena’s roster features 19 of 26 players from Major League Soccer with the Monday night addition of Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes. There were just 10 MLS players leading into an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Costa Rica on Nov. 15 — eight of whom dressed for the match after Howard got hurt against Mexico.
That sent the Americans to their first 0-2 start in the final round of World Cup qualifying and led to Jurgen Klismnann’s ouster. Arena then returned 10 years after his firing.
“I think Bruce is going to call up the players that give him the best chance to win,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “Regardless of where you play, regardless of what you’ve done, Bruce is going to rely on guys who are going to step on the field in big moments and go for it, be aggressive and fearless and represent him and the team and our country in the best possible way.”
The Americans might need all the depth they have up front, while Dempsey and Howard are healthy again at last.