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Bruce Arena to the Rescue!

November 21st, 2016 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired today and it looks as if the U.S. Soccer Federation is taking our advice on another matter, too:

Bruce Arena as the new/old U.S. national team coach. That would be Bruce Arena, he of five MLS Cup championships, three with the LA Galaxy, and a quarterfinals run at the 2002 World Cup.

Various outlets are reporting it is going to happen soon.

I feel much better about the U.S. chances of reaching the 2018 World Cup, with the flaky Jurgen retired to Orange County and the crabby Bruce replacing him.

The great thing about Bruce Arena?

His teams win the games they are supposed to win.

That is a crucial skill to bring to the pitch, with eight matches remaining in Hexagonal qualifying for Russia 2018.

You may have heard the Yanks lost their first two matches in the Hex, 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 at Costa Rica, and are at the bottom of the six teams. Which is alarming.

Three teams qualify directly to Russia; the fourth-place team goes to a home-and-away playoff with the fifth-place team out of the Asian Football Confederation.

Arena led two successful World Cup campaigns, ahead of the 2002 World Cup and the 2006 tournament. The former was a close-run affair, with the Yanks and Honduras going down to the final match to decide who finished third. The 2006 qualifying was cake, with seven victories, a draw (at Guatemala) and two defeats (at Costa Rica and Mexico).

If the Americans win their final four home matches and draw on the road for the other four, the ages-old formula for getting out of a group, that would be 16 points and almost certainly enough to get them up to third.

A defeat in Mexico City is more likely than a draw, which would take the U.S. down to 14 points, and would make “holding serve” at home even more important.

Setting aside permutations, Arena’s top priorities, inside the team would be these:

–Job 1. Bring back that American soccer spirit. For most of the past 25 years, U.S. teams rarely went on the pitch for a major international game with more talent than the other side, but they were cohesive and played as hard as they could for country — and each other. That seemed to be fading away under Klinsmann and must be reversed.

–Tighten up the back. This could mean new field players as well as a different keeper. Tim Howard is recovering from groin surgery and may be not be ready for the next U.S. match, home to Honduras, on March 24. Brad Guzan in theory would be next in goal, but he just leaked four goals in Costa Rica and is not playing much for Middlesbrough. Look for Arena to check the MLS talent, such as Zac McMath of Colorado.

–Make some decisions about the German-Americans brought over from Europe by Klinsmann. Can those guys really play? (John Brooks has been awful.) And do they represent a German-speaking clique within the team that requires the attention of the coach?

–Settling on MLS players Arena believes can help the national team. His U.S. teams a decade ago were dominated numerically by players plying their trade in MLS. It is safe to assume he will be confident several more of them can make the grade at the international level, as opposed to Klinsmann.

–Tidying up midfield. Perhaps a return to a 4-4-2 formation will help, or maybe Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones need to move aside.

Arena, 65, will have lots to do.

Thankfully, he has done this before, and done it well. He has four months to get this figured out.

It is not too late.



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