U.S. Soccer formally announced Bruce Arena’s return as national coach Tuesday.
Arena, who has been the Galaxy’s coach and general manager for more than eight seasons, replaces Jurgen Klinsmann, who was fired Monday after 5½ years with the national team.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the national team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said in a statement.
“His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach.”
The federation reportedly negotiated with the Galaxy for most of the day Monday to secure Arena’s release from a two-year contract extension the coach signed with the MLS team earlier this fall.
Arena, the most successful coach in the history of the national team with 71 wins and two World Cup appearances, is also the longest-serving, having already led the team from 1999 to 2006.
With the Galaxy, Arena reached the MLS Western Conference semifinals seven times in eight full seasons, winning three MLS Cups.
Arena, 65, is being asked to rescue a national team in crisis following losses in the first two games of the final round of World Cup qualifying. The U.S. has never started the six-team hexagonal round 0-2, leaving a string of seven consecutive World Cup appearances in doubt.
For the Galaxy, Arena’s departure leaves openings at both coach and general manager three weeks before the busiest week on the MLS calendar. Just hours after the Dec. 10 MLS Cup final, the league’s mid-December trade window opens and is followed by the expansion draft, free-agent negotiations, and the waiver and reentry drafts.
At the top of the Galaxy’s off-season to-do list is finding replacements for designated players Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. As for replacing Arena, the Galaxy will probably consider Curt Onalfo, coach of the franchise’s USL Pro affiliate and the former head man with the Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United.
One candidate who may no longer be in the mix is longtime Arena lieutenant Dave Sarachan, who abruptly resigned as the Galaxy’s top assistant last week. The departure of Sarachan, 62, fueled rumors that he would be rejoining Arena with the national team, although Sarachan denied that.