23 June 2006

Bruce Should Go, and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

There are going to be a lot of articles, blog posts, and BigSoccer rants on whether Bruce Arena should stay with the US National Team. There are going to be some that are reasoned, some that are passionate, some that are nasty, and a few that are all three. Most, I feel, will just resort to a sense of despair over the World Cup and move straight into hyperbole. You can do worse for a post-mortem than over at US Soccer Player's and Yanks Abroad though, so they are the links I'll give you. Some of the nastier ones probably won't help your mood.

First, while I touched on this last night during the World Cup Roundtable podcast, I want to refine my thoughts here a bit. The fundamental thought is that the US Men's National Team needs a new coach, and Bruce needs a job other than the US Men's National Team. While the performance in Germany was disappointing, that alone is not why Bruce should go. This is not the same as the catastrophe of 1998. Then we were utterly humiliated, the players were hung out to dry, and no one had any reason for confidence in the program. This time the situation is different: We simply failed to perform. It's not like this some how demonstrated that the US is utterly incapable of performing on the world stage, just that we didn't. The possibility still exists, though the reality failed.

There are several people that will try to quantify what the 2006 World Cup did to US Soccer. They'll say things like "This has set the program back four years." Well, yes, but let's be precise in our angst. The program has been set back to June 22, 2002. That's the day we were ousted by Germany in the quarterfinals. We are not back to wondering if we can even hang with the big dogs, the way it was on June 4, 2002. Simply put, we have not progressed since that performance, but I don't feel that we've slid back below it.

Now, Bruce (and Landon, and DMB, but mainly Bruce) going through to make another run at the World Cup to redeem himself makes a nice story. Which is the problem. Four years is an awful long time for the story to be about the Coach. A game or a tournament? Okay, I can accept that. But a full qualification and World Cup finals period? Too long. That's just simply unfair to the players, the program, and even the coach himself. Four years of "Can Bruce succeed? Has he learned from his mistakes? Why isn't he X?" is just too much. We may not be England in the hyperanalysis of managing the National Team, but we're picky enough that it would be an issue. Even if Bruce Arena is unaffected, it would be an issue for everyone he had to work with, coaches, players, training staff, US Soccer Presidents, MLS teams... End all of it now. Bruce should move on. The story then can go back to the team, and not be about the coach. Sure, there will be analysis of whether Landon Donovan or DMB can come back, should Taylor Twellman have a permanent chip on his shoulder, and all of that. But those are individual player stories that don't have the same scope that Arena's story has now.

I am not going to be someone who wants to slander Bruce. There's a lot of that going on right now, but his accomplishments with the US National Team are overall positive. He brought the team to its best modern performance in 2002. He navigated qualifying with increasing panache. He got our hopes up, even when we knew better, for Germany 2006. His tenure as coach is overall a positive step. He deserves several coaching positions after this, probably in MLS. Anyone who says "I knew all along Bruce was a fraud" should not be listened to. (Note: See comments. I borrowed this phrase inexactly from someone whose views I am not trying to typify. Which can create confusion I did not intend) Bruce has more than enough success to make such accusations laughable. But we can't spend the next four years talking about Bruce Arena.


At 23 June, 2006 10:20, Anonymous Josh said...

Anyone who says "I knew all along Bruce was a fraud" should not be listened to.

On the off chance that refers to me, let me be clear that I certainly did not know all along that Bruce wasn't up to the task. I found out in 2006 with everyone else.

At 23 June, 2006 10:29, Blogger JCM said...

Good summary D. My only comment is that I want to hear why he went with 4-5-1 for three games. If he has a reason and explains it, even if I don't agree, this all ends with good will and good luck. If however, he flips everyone the collective bird and says that he is the coach and can decide on whatever formation he wants and to hell with anyone who says otherwise, then he will have really set his own clock back 4 years and he will only receive credit for the 2002 World Cup. He will have told us his plan for 2006 was flawed no matter how well he did in CONCACAF. It has to lead somewhere. It has to result in a team that can win games in the World Cup.

At 23 June, 2006 12:46, Anonymous J. Michael said...

Exceedingly insightful and balanced review.

Overall, the man is a winner, but he's done all he can for the USMNT.

At 23 June, 2006 13:05, Blogger David Lifton said...

D, can you cross-post this at the WCRT blog?

At 23 June, 2006 14:13, Blogger D said...

Josh: It actually wasn't you, but I think I somehow conflated your words with some other people. You are not the people I was thinking of, but I used your words accidently. My apologies.

JCM: Fair. Entirely fair.

JM: Thanks

SEPod: Sure.

At 23 June, 2006 14:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to say but it wasn't Bruce who takes the blame for the cup. It was me. For the Czech-out I wore a vintage 94 USMNT t-shirt and the USMNT got hammered. For Italy I wore my DCU shirt-- inspired play! But then after a round of laundry I wore my USMNT shirt again to the bar for Ghana. And we all know how depressing that ended. (it absolutely galls me too to know that Italy even won...) My bad guys, I'll do better for South Africa 2010.

At 23 June, 2006 16:25, Anonymous Josh said...


No biggie!

At 23 June, 2006 18:03, Anonymous Matt said...

I hate it when people trash a lifetime of work for one failure.

Listen to the Arena/Reyna news conference and Arena makes a great point.

Everywhere he's been he's left the organization better than when he came in.

Arena needs to go...US needs a different look, maybe someone with more international experience...and Arena needs to go for his own sake.

He's a very smart guy and will learn from his mistakes this world cup (yes...I think he made a ton)

Arena brought us to a good level...but isn't the right guy to lead us to the next step.

I was very pissed at him yesterday and then reality set in and I prefer to thank him for the good work he did.

Arena did a great job...unfortunately he..and his players didn't perform at this WC.

PS: I really hope that we hire Klinsmann...and that the next coach (especially if he is a foreigner) will pick Arena's brain.
Arena has too much experience for us to throw out...his successes and mistakes need to be learned from. I see so many organiztions that have turnover and don't keep the knowlegde of the outgoing person.

We can't start with a "clean slate"..throw the baby out with the bath water if you will

At 23 June, 2006 21:24, Anonymous madison said...

what you wrote i terrible! look at mine and tell me what think of what i wrote!

At 26 June, 2006 03:05, Anonymous Paul said...

I've got no problem with Arena's staying on as coach. I'm sure he'll learn from the last three games and do a better job than some random guy we pull off the street. So unless we can get Klinsmann or Scolari or someone else who's good, Bruce Arena is fine with me.


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