Moments after his U.S. national team was knocked out of the World Cup earlier this week, coach Bruce Arena was asked about his future.
“I think I have a good future,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, but whatever I’m doing, I think it’s going to be good.”
On Friday, Arena became the first casualty of the failed U.S. bid to qualify for next summer’s World Cup when he resigned.
“When I took the job, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate,” Arena, the first U.S. coach to miss the World Cup in a generation, said in a statement. “Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months, and in the end, we came up short.
“No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.”
Arena steps down as the winningest coach in U.S. history at 81-32-35. He is also the only person to coach the U.S. in two World Cups, reaching the quarterfinals in 2002.
In a contentious 40-minute conference call that began an hour after Arena’s anticipated departure, Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said he shared responsibility for the World Cup campaign. Missing the tournament for the first time since 1986 was a wake-up call for the entire program, and Gulati promised additional changes, though he was short on specifics.
“We’ll look at everything,” he said. “And where we need to make major changes, we’ll do that. Where we need to make incremental changes, we’ll do that. We’ll take our time with that.
“Not qualifying is not acceptable.”
Gulati said those changes would not include his resignation and said he remains undecided if he will run stand for reelection to a fourth four-year term as USSF president in February, although he admitted he has reached out to people about nominating him.
Asked directly why he wasn’t stepping aside now, Gulati was blunt in his reply.
“Because of where the sport is now, and the role I played in it. And the role I think I can play going forward,” he said. “The sport is in a very, very different place than it was 10 years ago or 30 years ago, when I first got involved.”
Gulati, 58, is a member of FIFA’s executive council and is leading a delicate three-nation effort that would have the U.S., Mexico and Canada play host to the 2026 World Cup. That bid process won’t be completed until March, a month after U.S. Soccer’s presidential election.
Gulati said the U.S. will play two friendlies next month, and an interim coach will be chosen for those games in the next 10 days. A broader search for a permanent coach also will begin soon.
Among the names that have been linked to the U.S. job are Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio, a former MLS coach; Gerardo “Tato” Martino, a former Argentine national team coach currently with Atlanta United; and former U.S. international Tab Ramos, the technical director of U.S. Soccer’s youth program and the U-20 national team coach.
Ramos also is likely to be considered for the role of technical director of the senior national team.
Arena, 66, who already has been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, left the Galaxy for a second stint with the national team last November, hoping to rescue a qualifying campaign that had gotten off to an 0-2 start under former coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
And he almost pulled it off. Entering the final match on Tuesday, the U.S. needed only a draw in Trinidad — or for either Honduras or Panama to lose — to advance to the World Cup or a playoff with Australia, where a final tournament berth would be awarded. Instead, the U.S. lost, Honduras rallied to beat Mexico and Panama downed Costa Rica.
Arena lost just two of 18 games this year and won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. But both losses came in World Cup qualifiers, to Costa Rica last month in New Jersey and in Trinidad.
Arena led the Galaxy to eight straight playoff berths and three MLS titles as the team’s coach and general manager between 2008 and 2016. And though the Galaxy figures to undergo a major overhaul of its own this winter after a disastrous season, president Chris Klein said Friday the team hasn’t considered asking Arena back.
“We have a coach,” Klein said.
A U.S. Soccer spokesman said Arena’s national team assistants, among them five former Galaxy coaches, remain under contract.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11
10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Bruce Arena, Sunil Gulati, the president of the U.S. soccer federation, and Galaxy president Chris Klein.
This article was originally published at 7:40 a.m.