Five things Bruce Arena must do after taking over the U.S. soccer team

U.S. Coach Bruce Arena listens at a news conference in Hamburg, Germany, on June 13, 2006.
(Maurizio Gambarini / EPA)

Bruce Arena was introduced as the new coach of the U.S. national soccer team Tuesday morning. But the news that he would replace Jurgen Klinsmann wasn’t really news to anyone, including Arena, who has just four months to get the U.S. ready for the next round of World Cup qualifiers in March. Here are some of the priorities Arena has begun working on:

1. Reach out to players: Arena said he has already spoken to some national team players and will begin seeking out others. The conversations could be tricky because Arena will probably have to reassure some that they still have a place on the team while letting those shunned by Klinsmann know that they will be welcomed back. Earning the players’ respect shouldn’t be a challenge, though: An ESPNfc survey last spring found that Arena was far and away the most popular coach in MLS with 22% of the players polled saying they would like to play for him.

2. Determine a roster and style of play: The first goal will necessarily affect the other, Arena said. “Your style is dictated by the quality of your players. Certainly we can do things tactically that allow us to blossom. But we are who we are.” Arena defined the U.S. blueprint as being especially strong at goalkeeper, with some young attacking players and experienced midfielders. The coach said it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll bring many new players into the fold

3. Build a coaching staff: Klinsmann leaves behind a staff that includes loyal assistants Andi Herzog and Berti Vogts, neither of whom are likely to keep their jobs. However, Tab Ramos, who played for Arena on the national team, will probably remain in some role. Expect Arena to tap his experienced Galaxy staff for help. with longtime assistant Dave Sarachan, who resigned his Galaxy job last week, among the most likely hires.

4. Fix the team chemistry: Arena said he doesn’t plan to make wholesale changes in the roster or the team’s style of play. So how does he plan to change the results? “We need to build chemistry with this team and build a common goal, work on a team concept,” he said. “We have good players. We just have to get them working together as a team.” That was perceived as a shortcoming under Klinsmann.


5. Establish depth at goalkeeper: Arena didn’t name this as one of his goals, but it obviously needs to be. With the injured Tim Howard, 37, likely to miss the spring qualifiers, his probable replacement is Brad Guzan, 32. After that, there’s a big dropoff in experience, with Ethan Horvath and William Yarbrough, Guzan’s backups in Costa Rica, combining for just four caps between them. Expect Arena to take a long look at some MLS keepers such as San Jose’s David Bingham.

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