The United Way The U.S. team was a together bunch during coach Bruce Arena's debut

November 16, 1998

It may not have been the smashing debut U.S. coach Bruce Arena had
dreamed of, but the Americans' scoreless draw in a friendly
against Australia last Friday in San Jose offered a few insights
into the future. One of them occurred in the 79th minute when
Australia had a six-yard indirect free kick. In a moment of unity
rarely seen lately on the U.S. team, the wall held together and
blocked the kick.

In the wake of America's dismal performance in the 1998 World Cup
in France, which was marked by no wins, three losses, a
last-place finish and divisiveness among the players, as well as
between the players and former national team coach Steve Sampson,
this show of togetherness was heartening. While it is too early
to say who will be playing in the World Cup qualifying games
starting in 2000 or what style Arena will use, it's safe to
predict that any team under Arena at least will be unified.

"If Bruce's teams have a hallmark besides success, it's
togetherness," says 21-year-old MLS Rookie of the Year Ben Olsen,
who played for Arena at the University of Virginia and with D.C.
United and who was one of several young players who on Friday
made their first appearances for the U.S. "He's very loyal to his
players, and his players care for each other because he stresses
helping one another on the field. That goes a long way in this
sport. It's tough to get 11 pros on the same page."

At first glance Arena, who was hired from D.C. United on Oct. 27
and signed to a contract through the 2002 World Cup, doesn't seem
the type to worry about intrasquad relationships. In fact, his
reputation for winning--five NCAA championships at Virginia and
two MLS titles with United--is matched by his reputation for
arrogance, but national team veterans and newcomers have found
him to be refreshing. "You hear stories about how overbearing he
is, but he's not like that at all," says World Cup veteran
forward Brian McBride. "We had a very positive, enjoyable
training camp. Bruce exudes confidence, and it rubs off on
players. He demands a lot, but he makes you feel like you
belong."

"I know how athletes think," says Arena, who played soccer and
lacrosse at Cornell in the early 1970s. "[Virginia athletic
director] Terry Holland told me that you have to remember what it
was like to be a player, and I have never forgotten that."

Arena, therefore, respects his players, doesn't micromanage or
overcoach and, when it comes to practice, keeps it short. "Each
training session is just an hour or an hour and 15 minutes," says
Eddie Lewis, a 24-year-old midfielder with the San Jose Clash who
started on Friday. "That leaves you wanting more. Rather than
being exhausted, you come to practice each day hungry. I wake up
in the morning, and I'm counting the hours until I can do it
again. That's a good trick."

So what kind of results can the U.S. expect with Arena at the
helm? "Our main goal is to qualify for the next World Cup," he
says. Beyond that, he believes it's realistic to expect the
Americans to compete with the best countries in the world by
2010, even though, as he says, "there aren't any Ronaldos in
the U.S." Arena says that enough Americans are playing the sport
at a professional level to provide a decent talent pool and
consistent improvement. "You want to give the players with
potential the opportunities," he adds. "The team that came back
from France was an old team. All the opportunities were given to
those players over the last eight years. It's time to have a new
look."

Arena's team on Friday included only five players from the World
Cup squad and six who had no previous national team experience.
Instead of veterans such as Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes, Alexi
Lalas, Tab Ramos and Eric Wynalda--none of whom have been ruled
out for future participation by Arena--the U.S. dressed youngsters
like Olsen, a midfielder; 21-year-old Clint Mathis, a rookie
midfielder with the Los Angeles Galaxy last year; C.J. Brown, a
23-year-old defender for the Chicago Fire who in 1996 played for
San Jose State University; and 25-year-old Fire goalie Zach
Thornton, who made three saves on Friday and was named MVP of the
game.

But the biggest ovation during the friendly was for Lewis, who
played 73 minutes and pleased both Arena and the crowd of 15,074,
many of whom, presumably, had watched Lewis play for the Clash.
"This night felt new and different," said Lewis, hitting the note
that U.S. soccer was looking for when it hired Arena. "I wish I
could do it again in about 15 minutes. I was just getting
going."

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/AP SAVED Thornton and Co. practice less under Arena. [Zach Thornton making save]

"You hear stories of how overbearing Arena is, but he's not like
that at all," says McBride.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)