Arena is the best American coach ever and the 65-year-old former LA Galaxy coach knows what he is getting himself into as he has already been through two World Cup cycles as coach of the U.S. national team.
Not qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 is unthinkable for US Soccer, but Klinsmann has put Arena in a difficult situation as the U.S. in last in the CONCACAF Hexagonal group at 0-2-0.
“I’ve had 10 years on the field at the club level [since leaving the U.S. in ’06] and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented players in the world, and to understand how they work and how to build a team and continue to grow on the tactical side, continue to grow on how to deal with players, learning how to plan and playing away [from home] and playing in big matches,” Arena said during a media conference call.
“I think 10 years later, I’m better prepared to do this job than I was in 1998, 2002 and ultimately 2006. The experiences I’ve had will benefit the program.”
After U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and CEO Dan Flynn made the decision to fire Klinsmann on Sunday evening, negotiations with Arena started quickly. Gulati said they met with Arena on Monday and Flynn remained in Southern California, where Klinsmann lives, to conclude negotiations while Gulati returned to work in New York City.
“I think he’s got far more experience than he did in the first go-around,” Gulati said of Arena, who took the U.S. to the ’02 quarterfinals and won two Gold Cups before being fired following an 0-2-1 finish at the ’06 World Cup. “He’s proven and re-proven many times at all levels of the game in the United States that he’s an extremely capable and successful coach.”
Arena said there will be a January camp, which, as usual, will consist primarily of players in their MLS off-seasons. He said he’s already been in touch with a couple of his future charges—he didn’t specify—and looked forward to communicating with the rest in the coming weeks.
Klinsmann had a very euro-centric approach to the US national team, preferring players who played in Europe over those who play in MLS, especially if they play in the Bundesliga.
Arena has spend the last 8 seasons coaching the LA Galaxy and has a much better feel than his predecessor about the talent level of domestic players. When those World Cup qualifiers kick off in March, I expect the side to be more “American” than what we have seen recently.