Bruce Arena is U.S. men's national team manager again, and he joins our Planet Fútbol Podcast to discuss the challenges ahead and some of his coaching past with SI's Grant Wahl.
Back in his University of Virginia coaching days, Arena–along with assistant Bob Bradley–used to eavesdrop on visiting basketball coaches speaking to their teams, and in the ACC glory days, that meant the likes of Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, Bobby Cremins, Lefty Driesell and a host of others. He explains what he learned from that esteemed group and how it influenced his coaching style.
Arena has enjoyed a storied pro coaching career ever since, guiding D.C. United and the LA Galaxy to multiple MLS Cup titles while also leading the U.S. to its best World Cup finish, a 2002 quarterfinal berth. Now that he has replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, Arena has a straightforward task ahead of him: qualify for World Cup 2018. The U.S. is in an 0-2-0 qualifying hole after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, and it was the latter, the 4-0 dismantling in San Jose, that caught Arena's eye for the wrong reasons.
"I was disappointed," Arena said. "That was not a typical U.S. team on the field that day, for whatever reason. Generally a U.S. team, whether they win, lose or draw, they go down fighting, and I think we did not have the fight that day, and that to me was disappointing."
Contrary to what critics of the U.S. program will say, Arena believes the U.S. talent pool is good enough to compete on the world stage.
"I think that's a cop out," Arena said. "Do we have the best players in the world? No. ... I don't think our pool of talent is short. Certainly it is not up there with the elite countries in the world, but I think the name of the game is be a good team and that's where we're going to put all of our hard work."
Following a trip to Europe to meet with some U.S. players, Arena will get his first look at part of his player pool at the annual January camp. He acknowledged that while the pool and roster ultimately won't be radically different than Klinsmann's, some players–he singled out Benny Feilhaber–who have been left out of the mix for one reason or another, will get a look.
Listen to his full interview in the podcast above.