World Cup Disaster: Bruce Arena Out As USMNT Head Coach

Interim United States men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena has resigned after the side failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup following a disgraceful loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

A good gesture, but inconsequential, given that he was never going to be the coach after the 2018 World Cup. It’s good that heads are starting to roll, but Arena was already slated for execution.

The United States needs wholesale, systemic changes to both Major League Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation if the country is to ever contend on the world stage. Right now, U.S. Soccer is lightyears away from that. All they had to do was tie Trinidad and Tobago, a tiny island nation of a little over a million that most people couldn’t find on a map. Not win; tie. And even that proved too much.

Bruce Arena, who coached the national team from 1998 to 2006, was tasked with one thing after Jurgen Klilnsmann was fired in November of 2016: make it through CONCACAF and secure a berth to the World Cup. In just under a year, he failed, in spectacular fashion, to execute the one thing he was tasked with.

To rub salt in the wound, CONCACAF is the weakest region of the world.

On paper, there are three decent teams: Mexico, the United States, and Costa Rica. With ostensibly four World Cup slots available out of the six teams in the Hex (the fourth place team [Honduras] will play the fourth place team [Australia] from the Asian Football Confederation in a wild card play-in match), it’s astounding that the U.S. failed to qualify.

It’s the opposite of Leicester City winning the Premier League. It’s like Manchester United getting relegated to the Championship (second division of English football).

Firing Klinsmann towards the end of the World Cup qualifying cycle should have been cause for concern. Good teams don’t fire their coaches with the World Cup around the corner. Instead, it was a decision celebrated ’round the country.

Finally, we were rid of that awful German, who won the 1990 World Cup as a player and coached Germany to a third-place finish in 2006. What does he know about soccer, anyway?

Klinsmann was fired because he lost back-to-back qualifiers to Mexico and Costa Rica, but the seeds of division between him and the rest of the U.S. Soccer machine were sowed because he wanted his players playing in Europe, not MLS. He saw the the infrastructure needed to develop young players into professionals was acutely lacking. He wanted his players playing in top European leagues. where they would be surrounded by world-class talent.

Look at the development of Christian Pulisic, who’s been playing in the Bundesliga, relative to the regression of Michael Bradley and stagnation of Jozy Altidore. The last two names on that list returned from overseas to lucrative MLS contracts.

Klinsmann made no attempt to conceal his disdain with the state of affairs of soccer in the United States. That didn’t sit well with Sunlil Gulati, president of the United Sates Soccer Federation, or Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer and CEO of Soccer United Marketing. When the opportunity to fire him presented itself, they pounced; circling the wagons around U.S. Soccer and a broken system.

Here we are, a year later, sans German head coach or a ticket to Russia; worse off than ever.

Bruce Arena was tapped as interim head coach and he couldn’t even do that right. He was neither cause of, nor solution to, the root-level problems that plague the United States Soccer Federation. Now he’s out of the equation. Sunil Gulati remains, for now, but he’ll be gone soon. But Don Garber might just be too powerful to displace, and with his personal finances intertwined with both Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing, he’s the American version of disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

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It’s a dark time for soccer in the United States, and it’s unclear when the sun will rise again.