Bruce Arena appears set to reclaim his spot as manager of the United States men’s national soccer team following the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann on Monday. Rumors had swirled for more than a week that Arena would step in if Klinsmann was fired, and Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl is reporting that will indeed happen. Arena was at the helm of the U.S. team from 1998 through 2006 and led the squad at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
The 65-year-old Arena is one of America’s most successful soccer coaches, having won five MLS Cups, two CONCACAF Gold Cups and he took the U.S. to the final eight at the 2002 World Cup. The move to give him the job is likely not some kind of long-term plan for U.S. Soccer, but an attempt to salvage the 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle. The U.S. opened the final hexagonal round with a 2-1 loss to Mexico and a 4-0 defeat in Costa Rica, putting the team in an awful position.
Wahl believes Arena will be in place through the 2018 World Cup, with top U.S. assistant Tab Ramos taking over after that:
Such an arrangement would make sense, because the U.S. needs some kind of vision for the future. One thing Klinsmann did accomplish during his roller coaster-like tenure, was the infusion of a ton of talent into America’s player pool. The team is deeper and more talented than it has ever been, it just never seemed to get things right tactically. Ramos is a former national team stalwart (81 international caps) who is the U.S.’s U-20 manager and was Klinsmann’s assistant.
The firing of Klinsmann was likely long overdue, since almost every high he reached was followed by an incredible low. Hiring Arena feels uninspiring and like a big step back for the national program, but if he is only coming in to salvage the current mess then step aside for someone with a grander vision, U.S. fans will likely be fine with it.
The key is that U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati must find some kind of long-term vision for the future. Arena isn’t that, Ramos might be.