Arena, Bradley, Klinsmann, and Sarachan – a Brief Coaching Portrait

Bruce Arena made his second stop as coach of the USMNT during the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign.

 Arena has been known as a good organizer and communicator. The players have always seemed to know their place on his teams in a good way. With few exceptions, he preferred a large and bigger players with a strong presence on the field. The interesting thing about Arena is that he has always done very well in domestic competitions. That is, when all the teams are playing the same style (essentially getting the ball down the line and into the box*)( A simplification, though, people within the American soccer community, including Alexi Lalas, have pointed out that Arena is not the biggest Xs and Os coach around), his teams have usually come out ahead. However, his approach—including lineup choices and style of play—has met a tough audience outside of CONCACAF in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, where the style of play was a bit different. Leading up to those campaigns, winning was something Arena was used to.

 As a player, Arena was a goalie (and even played one game with the US national team), and then as coach of Virginia University he won four consecutive NCAA national titles. As coach in the MLS, he’s won five MLS Cups (two with DC United and three with LA Galaxy). He first coached the USMNT from 1998-2006 after replacing Steve Sampson, wherein Arena led the charge in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, along with a few Gold Cup titles.

 Following the 2006 World Cup, Bob Bradley took over and coached during the 2010 World Cup. Bradley was replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached during the 2014 World Cup, and he was in turn replaced by Bruce Arena. For his second run at coaching the USMNT, Arena inherited a team in flux.

 Jurgen Klinsmann had coached the team to mixed results, albeit a winning record. By the time Klinsmann and the USMNT lost 4-0 to Costa Rica (in 2016), Sunil Gulati—the US Soccer president cleaned house, rehiring Arena. All of this was smack in the middle of World Cup qualifications.

 With some bad luck, the USMNT met a tough opponent in their final World Cup qualification game, losing to Trinidad and Tobago in October of 2017. For the first time since 1986, the US would not qualify for the World Cup.

 Following the loss, Arena resigned as coach. The interim coach who took his place was the experienced Dave Sarachan, a former player and coach at Cornell University, who also played and coached professionally, who also happened to be a longtime associate of Arena.

 The next US coach, whoever that may be, has a fresh group of talent to lead the team into World Cup 2022.

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