Jurgen Klinsmann is out as USMNT coach. If reports are correct, former USMNT coach and current LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena will replace him. Here are three areas where we will see a visible change in style.
Squad Makeup: Arena has never couched his opinions. He believes American soccer’s way forward should be to build from within, with American coaches and American players.
“I believe an American should be coaching the national team,” says Arena, who led the national team for eight years. “I think the majority of the national team should come out of Major League Soccer. The people that run our governing body think we need to copy what everyone else does, when in reality, our solutions will ultimately come from our culture.
“Come on,” he says. “We can’t copy what Brazil does or Germany does or England does. When we get it right, it’s going to be because the solutions are right here. We have the best sports facilities in the world. Why can’t we trust in that?”
Don’t expect a Wambachian nativism to take hold. Arena will not purge everyone with a German accent. Foreign-born and foreign-based players featured in Arena’s 2002 and 2006 teams. That said, he likely will select a more MLS-based squad.
Klinsmann sought players reared in German academies. He trusted the young and unproven with that upbringing over MLS veterans. His last call-up featured an equal number based in Germany (7) as from MLS. That balance may shift.
Players’ Coach: Klinsmann was a phenomenal player. He won the World Cup with Germany. He played for some of the world’s biggest clubs. He developed a rigid, very German conception of the professionalism and dedication it takes to succeed at that level, not without merit.
Arena has a different outlook. He has coached college players. He has coached players on a day-in, day-out basis. He will have a supporting, more nurturing touch with his players.
The best case study is Landon Donovan, who had a different personality. Klinsmann couldn’t work with him, exiled him, left him out of the Brazil squad. Arena resolved serious conflicts between Donovan and David Beckham and produced an excellent run of club success with LA Galaxy.
More Experienced Coach: Klinsmann is the bigger soccer name. Arena has had far more experience and success as a coach at multiple levels. He won five national titles in college. His two stints in MLS – D.C. United, LA Galaxy – have produced arguably the league’s two best teams. He nearly brought the U.S. to the World Cup semifinal.
Klinsmann’s resume is thin. He took Germany to the 2006 World Cup. He flamed out at Bayern Munich for a year. Then he got the USMNT job.
Arena’s experience will be helpful. He should do a better job with the complexities and details than Klinsmann did. Putting the right players in the right positions to succeed. Anticipating, recognizing, and adapting to what opponents are doing. Making optimal substitutions. Those Klinsmann weaknesses are proven Arena strengths.
In Conclusion… Bruce Arena is a solid hire. He will right the ship, build up confidence, and qualify the U.S. for Russia 2018. That is, far and away, the primary concern when making a mid-cycle change.
Some may have wanted a more transformative hire for the future. It’s not clear U.S. Soccer could attract that coach right now. It’s not clear U.S. Soccer could afford that investment, amidst a CBA fight with the USWNT.