Arena leaves D.C. United, takes over national team He'll move toward youth for 2002 World Cup

October 28, 1998|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Bruce Arena's hiring as coach of the U.S. national men's soccer team, rumored for weeks, became official yesterday in New York, where he said he will start building toward the 2002 World Cup by searching for new, young players.

"It has been a goal of mine to coach internationally at the highest level, and it's a challenge I'm ready for," said Arena, 47, whose teams have won nine championships since 1989, five at Virginia and four with Major League Soccer's D.C. United, including two MLS championships.

Arena replaces Steve Sampson, who resigned June 29, four days after the United States finished an 0-3 World Cup in France.

A roster expected to be announced today for a Nov. 6 friendly in San Jose, Calif., against Australia will mark the start of Arena's hunt for new blood, particularly players who need international experience.

"We will not rule out anyone, but we need to build with young players," Arena said. "We should not be fooled too much by systems or formations. We need to find the right players and let them play."

Among players Arena mentioned were United's Ben Olsen, an attacking midfielder and MLS Rookie of the Year, and Chicago Fire forward Josh Wolff. Both left college early for pro careers. Both positions were U.S. weaknesses in this year's World Cup.

American goalkeeping is in good hands, and on defense, Arena said he likes World Cup starters Eddie Pope, whom he developed at United, and David Regis. He praised forward Brian McBride and midfielders Cobi Jones and Brian Maisonneuve, three MLS stars who played in France.

U.S. Soccer Federation president S. Robert Contiguglia, who met with Arena for five hours about six weeks ago but then toyed over several world-known coaches, endorsed him yesterday.

"Looking for an American coach with international experience and a complete understanding of the American player," he said, dTC "it was clear to me who the most qualified candidate was. Bruce Arena is the perfect fit."

Arena's last experience with U.S. Soccer was as Olympic coach in 1995-96, when his Under-23 club went 15-7-13, missing the final round. A tie with Portugal was played before 58,012, the largest crowd ever at RFK Stadium in Washington.

Financial terms of Arena's four-year contract were not disclosed. Arena will coach United twice more, against Brazil's Vasco da Gama, the South American-club titlist, for the Western Hemisphere pro championship on Nov. 14 in Washington and Dec. 5 and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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