Two days after the United States men's national team failed to qualify for the World Cup in an embarrassing display, USMNT head coach Bruce Arena hinted at a potential coaching change in an interview with the Washington Post.
“Obviously, I have no interest in going on a four-year cycle right now,” the 66-year-old coach told the Post. “I’ll do whatever is right. That is the approach I am going to take.”
Arena was hired in November after the USMNT suffered defeats in its first two games of the hexagonal under Jurgen Klinsmann. Arena previously guided the national team to the quarterfinals in 2002 and to the World Cup in 2006, when the team was eliminated after the group stage. Arena's contract was set to run through July, after the World Cup.
Speaking of the 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, which sealed the U.S.' fate, Arena ruminated on Trinidad and Tobago's "bizarre" goals but said he has no excuses for his team's failure to qualify.
“Look at the two goals we conceded: How bizarre,” he told the Post. “Does it get any more bizarre than that? So you are down two goals, you get a goal early in the second half and there’s plenty of time to get a second goal. We had our chances. But what can you say? Even despite conceding those two bizarre goals, we still positioned ourselves to get out of there with a point. I can’t look anywhere else except inside our team.”
Arena also addressed widespread criticism directed at U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who hired both Klinsmann and Arena. Gulati is expected to address Arena's future in a conference call with reporters on Friday.
"The criticism on Sunil is unfair,” Arena told the Post. “Why is the president of the federation responsible for the result on Tuesday?”
Another reason Gulati has been under fire is due to his role in overseeing player development. Despite adequate funding and a huge amount of young people playing soccer in the country, the U.S. hasn't produced world-class talent apart from 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. Arena, however, does not think the U.S. Soccer Federation should be held accountable for player development, but that the responsibility falls on domestic clubs.
“Why do people think U.S. Soccer is in charge of player development? Players play in clubs," Arena told the Post. "Why is that U.S. Soccer’s responsibility? They support the clubs in this country, they support player development, but that’s not their responsibility.
“They are a governing body that runs our national team programs. They have coaching education. All of that has to get better, but the infrastructure now for player development in the United States is set. There will be more players developed over the years. Every MLS club has an academy program. Everyone has done a lot of leg work and invested a lot of money to get it going.