On the heels of the U.S. men’s national soccer team missing the World Cup for the first time in 32 years, former head coach Bruce Arena has written a book calling for a “change in leadership” among other issues he says must be fixed if the country hopes to contend on the world’s stage again.
Arena resigned from his job in October as head coach of the American team after his squad was upset by Trinidad & Tobago, which had lost six straight matches, in the finale of the North American qualifying tournament. The 2-1 defeat, one of the biggest disappointments by USA Soccer in recent decades, led to Arena stepping down three days later.
The loss also altered the plans of his book publisher, which first pitched Arena on a book deal shortly after he was hired in November 2016 for his second stint as U.S. men’s head coach.
“The book was going to be that we qualified for the World Cup and getting ready for the World Cup,” Arena told the Los Angeles Times.
Instead the book, set for release on June 12 — two days before the start of the World Cup — is titled “What’s Wrong With Us: A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline.”
Instead of celebrating America’s rise among the international soccer scene, Arena offers his seasoned and sometimes scathing take on what is keeping the United States from becoming more of a world soccer power.
First and foremost, Arena believes that the American soccer program needs immediate improvement from the top down.
“They just don’t get it, the people that run the sport in our country,” Arena told the Times. “And U.S. Soccer has a major obligation to get it right. There needs to be a change in leadership.”
The national federation did get a new president in February when Carlos Cordeiro won a contested election following the resignation of Sunil Gulati in the wake of the men’s national team’s collapse.
Arena, named to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010, is arguably the most successful soccer coach in American history. He has coached and won at nearly every level, with five College Cup championships at Virginia and five MLS titles (two with D.C. United, three with LA Galaxy). Arena also led U.S. teams at two World Cups (2002, 2006) and one Olympics (1996 in Atlanta).
So Arena’s words may carry weight, thanks to his experience. While Arena lauds the talent infusion at the youth levels in the American program, his biggest complaint is about the echo chamber atop the executive level at U.S. Soccer. Per the Times, Arena writes that many among the bosses have limited technical expertise and vision needed to truly help shape the skills development needed to vault America’s young players among the world elite.
But Arena is hopeful that USA Soccer is not a lost cause.
“It’s not like you’ve got to have a clean sweep of everything and make all radical changes,” he told the Times. “You just need the right leadership with the right ideas and get going.”
But if the status quo remains?
“If we don’t make changes,” he warns, “we’re not going anywhere.”
—Field Level Media