Arena out as U.S. soccer coach

8-year tenure ends

Klinsmann emerges as possible candidate

July 15, 2006|By LUIS ARROYAVE

Chicago -- U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced yesterday that Bruce Arena is out as the men's national team coach.

His departure comes after a disappointing World Cup in which the United States failed to advance from its group and managed only a draw and one scored goal in three matches.

Though Arena's contract runs through December, Gulati will begin a search for a new coach immediately. Juergen Klinsmann, who quit the German national team after leading it to the semifinals, is expected to be a leading candidate.

Arena, who led the United States to a 71-30-29 record since his hire in October 1998, was unable to re-create the same success his side achieved when making a run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals.

"It comes down primarily to eight years being a long period," Gulati said via conference call. "... Obviously, we didn't get the results we wanted in the World Cup.

"Bruce Arena didn't become a bad coach in three games with a bad bounce of the ball. It has much more to do with [his] eight years and us thinking it's time for a fresh look."

Besides being the longest-tenured U.S. men's national team coach, Arena has the most victories and highest winning percentage (.658). He led the United States to its highest FIFA ranking at No. 4 in April.

Arena inherited the job after the United States' last-place finish at the 1998 World Cup. His emphasis on fitness often gave the United States an edge against opponents in a 90-minute game with few breaks. He also was credited with getting his players to believe in his system and, for the most part, getting the best out of each player.

What Arena wasn't able to do was win against Europe's tougher competition. Some might consider the 1-1 draw with Italy in the World Cup an even greater achievement after the Azzurri won the title, but it did little to improve the United States' unimpressive record against European countries other than Poland.

Arena's critics, of which there were many after this World Cup, have blamed him for the team's early exit and an offense that managed one shot on goal in its first two matches.

The next challenge for U.S. Soccer is finding a new head coach. Klinsmann, who lives in Southern California near the U.S. training base in Carson, is a logical choice.

After Germany's third-place Cup finish, Klinsmann said he was "burned out" and wanted to spend time with his family. The 46-year-old made believers out of even his worst critics with an attack style that is different from Germany's traditional emphasis on defense.

"Does Juergen Klinsmann fit [our] criteria? He probably does," Gulati said. "He has a much better handle on the American soccer scene than someone who hasn't spent time here.

"He has expressed his desire to remain in America, so I'm sure we'll talk. Whether we'll talk seriously about this, we'll see."

As for Arena, a New York native, the Red Bull New York head coaching position in Major League Soccer is one rumored possibility.

Luis Arroyave writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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