Arena re­builds U.S. con­fi­dence af­ter Klins­mann

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY RONALD BLUM

MEX­ICO CITY | Bruce Arena has man­aged the tricky task of es­tab­lish­ing a sense of calm along with ur­gency within the U.S. soc­cer team. It’s quite a con­trast to the frus­tra­tion and fu­til­ity at the end of Jur­gen Klins­mann’s coach­ing reign last Novem­ber.

Of course, climb­ing from last to third in the fi­nal round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing has eased pres­sure im­mensely.

“We haven’t lost yet this year since Bruce has had the team,” U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Su­nil Gu­lati said Tues­day, a day af­ter a 1-1 draw with Mex­ico at Azteca Sta­dium. “So what­ever has got­ten us there, what­ever oc­ca­sion or bond­ing that’s led to a change, that’s a pos­i­tive, and cer­tainly Bruce has to re­ceive a lot of credit.”

Now 65, Arena is a mem­ber of the U.S. Na­tional Soc­cer Hall of Fame. He coached the na­tional team from 19982006, lead­ing the Amer­i­cans to the 2002 World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals in their best re­sult since the first tour­na­ment in 1930.

Klins­mann was fired af­ter a 2-1 home loss to Mex­ico and a 4-0 fi­asco at Costa Rica. The re­bound in qual­i­fy­ing un­der the witty and sar­cas­tic Arena be­gan with a 6-0 home win over Hon­duras and a 1-1 tie at Panama. It con­tin­ued with a 2-0 home vic­tory over Trinidad and Tobago last Thurs­day in Colorado and the draw against El Tri — just the third point the Amer­i­cans have gained at Azteca.

“I’m not go­ing to com­pare the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion to any pre­vi­ous sit­u­a­tions. I don’t think that is ap­pro­pri­ate. But I think that clearly the team has re­sponded to some of the things that Bruce has out­lined and is do­ing, and that’s what we were hop­ing for,” Gu­lati said. “I think it’s prob­a­bly a lot of lit­tle things and not any one thing.

“Ob­vi­ously when you’re on the field and in camp and the team starts to be­lieve even be­fore they’ve played a game that they’re ca­pa­ble of play­ing bet­ter and of win­ning, that helps. And then when you go out and see re­sults that come from that, from fol­low­ing the path he’s laid out, that ob­vi­ously gives peo­ple a lot of con­fi­dence not only in Bruce but in them­selves and in the team.”

On the side­walk out­side Es­ta­dio Na­cional in San Jose, Costa Rica, last fall, U.S. cap­tain Michael Bradley said self-ex­am­i­na­tion and ur­gency was needed. Speak­ing in Azteca’s tun­nel on Mon­day night, Bradley di­ag­nosed what had gone wrong.

“It was just a case at the end of last year where a few too many ar­eas started to drop, and I think Bruce has done a very good job of com­ing in and just lit­tle by lit­tle work­ing at get­ting ev­ery — just rais­ing the level across the board,” he said. “And ob­vi­ously a big part of it is this idea of team, of spirit, of men­tal­ity, of (guts) and un­der­stand­ing that we have good play­ers, we have a good team, but we’re not good enough to just step on the field and think that things are go­ing to take care of them­selves.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. soc­cer coach Bruce Arena has in­stalled a sense of calm on the team since re­plac­ing Jur­gen Klins­mann.

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