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