Meet Eric Wynalda. He’s the pretty-boy soccer analyst who has been absolutely killing US National team coach Bruce Arena on a daily basis for ESPN. It’s a bludgeoning, really. [Brief Wynalda history lesson: He scored against Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup, but was an absolute waste of space in two games during the 1998 Cup, when the US finished 32nd out of 32 teams.]
Moments after the US was eliminated from the 2006 World Cup following a 2-1 loss to Ghana Thursday, Wynalda (aka Waldo), famously ranted ”Bruce Arena Screwed Up the World Cup for the US”. Harsh? Sure. Accurate? That’s debatable.
Late last night on ESPN’s ‘World Cup Live’ (or whatever it’s called), we caught Rece Davis grilling Arena. Davis said something to the effect of, “our analysts have been critical of you and the team.” Clearly, he was talking about Waldo, though no names were mentioned.
With his trademark shit-eating grin, Arena fired this opening salvo: “Your analyst … they should know that these competitions are difficult … the 1998 team that many of your analysts participated on, fell apart. On the field and off the field. Our team is a strong team.” Then came this: “Over the eight years I’ve been with the US team, we’ve advanced considerably. I had to take over a program in 1998 that really was at the bottom, because of really, the antics of a lot of players.”
Yee-haw! Rece then turned to a fiery-red Waldo, who appeared flustered and embarrassed. “Maybe [Bruce] didn’t elevate soccer in this country, maybe he took it where it should be. I don’t think he’s the guy to take it to the next level, and he proved that.” Then came the personal digs: “…He’s an arrogant guy … He’s never played in a World Cup, he doesn’t know what that’s like.”
We’re shocked Wynalda didn’t just scream, “I’m the leading goal-scorer in US history, Bruce. You coached lacrosse!”
And now, the “antics” Arena was referring to. Less than two weeks ago, an anonymous poster on the Big Soccer forum found this Waldo quote:
“The difference is that this is a real team. Regardless of the game against Italy, I guarantee that the veteran players will not be sitting in the lawn chairs in the middle of the night throwing wine bottles at the coaches’ suite — like we did in France.”
Oh, look. Wynalda did say it. In USA Today, no less.
This tussle is taking shape quite nicely. We’ll put it on the undercard of Guillen-Mariotti.