The Maestro: Bruce Arena Turns the Galaxy Around
He’s the best manager this nation has ever produced. Not only is he the best, but the gap between Bruce Arena and the second best American manager ever (Bob Bradley, Dom Kinnear, Mooch Myernick, etc?) is so wide it’s not even worth debating. Bruce Arena has done what no US manager has ever done and may never do again. For his prickly ways and the sometimes difficult football to watch his teams produce, he is a one of a kind person when it comes to the game in this country.
That’s why it should come as little surprise to our readers that the Los Angeles Galaxy after three disastrous seasons are now one of the best teams in Major League Soccer again. Arena’s tried and tested formula or signing players he knows from past coaching stints (the USMNT, DC United or UVA) has once again worked brilliantly as the team looks better organized and more together than anytime since the untimely and tragic death of Doug Hamilton.
Bruce Arena has taken a previously outclassed squad and achieved results. Sadly, much of it has been achieved by playing anti-football. The Galaxy are still one or two years away from moving beyond the stench created by Alexi Lalas, Ruud Gullit and David Beckham and while Arena is being faulted by some for his tactics, what else is he supposed to do? Send a team out to play attractively and be beat 3-0 every night like Ruud Gullit’s team was towards the end of his tenure?
I know we hear a lot from MLS fans about how good coach A, is or coach B is. But I’ve witnessed time and time again that good coaches by the MLS standard don’t match up on most nights with Bruce Arena. There are very few Galaxy games this season that I have watched where the other manager is on par tactically with Arena when it comes to making changes during a match.
I do believe as reflected in some recent comments that the coaching in MLS is subpar. I also agree with the comments from some readers that the fact that USL attracts some decent foreign coaches (including some that have managed at a very high level in Europe) who steer away from MLS because of the restrictive rules and failures of past foreign coaches (not one single non American/Canadian oriented coach has been successful in MLS history with the exception of Octavio Zambrano, and even he was eventually fired twice).
Thus, you have a situation where former players who haven’t been properly trained as coaches end up opposing Arena. Some former players improve their coaching skills while some simply do not. It is worth noting that after his one failure as a coach, Arena did not reach back to hire former players of his as his top assistants but brought in Dave Sarachan, who helped build the USMNT under Arena and also did a good job with Chicago. Arena has never said so, but his hiring of Sarcahan indicates to me he knew that he made mistakes in New York with his staff selections.
The best eight years in US National Team history were due almost entirely to Arena. Coming off the disaster of World Cup 1998 and inheriting a team in transition, he quickly stabilized the side beating Germany twice and Argentina once in his first eight months on the job. As well as Bob Bradley is doing, Arena had two more wins against top five ranked nations in his first eight months than Bradley has in almost three years.
Dave Sarcahan was a big part of that quick turnaround for the USMNT, as he rejoined Arena in late 1999 to help steer the national team through the choppy waters of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The USA finished third in the Hexagonal, but considering Costa Rica and Mexico had relatively few injuries compared to the USA during qualifying, Arena had actually been able to deepen the pool thanks to the troubles.
World Cup 2002 was unlike anything American soccer has experienced before or since. What’s more interesting is that the team was not necessarily more talented than the 1994 or 1998 teams. But Bruce Arena had a magic touch. He got lucky with a healthy John O’Brien for the entire tournament but also pushed the right buttons with Clint Mathis, Frankie Hejduk, and youngsters Pablo Mastroeni, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley to get results. He also smartly kept veterans Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart and Joe Max Moore in the team to provide stability.
When Arena was fired in 2006 by Sunil Gulati he implied that the US wouldn’t see the sort of run we enjoyed under him again for sometime. Perhaps it was just a bitter parting shot, or perhaps the maestro of American soccer knows something we don’t. The jury is still out on that comment of course as we have not completed a full World Cup cycle.
Let’s get back to the Galaxy. I felt that when Arena was hired that it was a good choice for the club which had resembled a traveling circus for the better part of 15 months. But even I did not know Arena would have the Galaxy turned around this quickly.
With the veteran experience of several USMNT players, some good young players and Landon Donovan, anything including MLS Cup is possible. That is if David Beckham and his ego don’t get in the way. That I suppose will be Arena’s big test from here on out this MLS season.
THE US-MEXICO GAME FROM AZTECA AUGUST 12TH WILL NOT BE SEEN ON ESPN. SOME MAY RECALL THEIR WERE TV RIGHTS ISSUES IN 2007 WHICH PREVENTED THE USA FROM PLAYING A FRIENDLY AT AZTECA. THESE SAME ISSUES HAVE REAPPEARED WITH TELEMUNDO KEEPING THE SPANISH AND ENGLISH RIGHTS. SO NORMAL USA BROADCAST PARTNERS ESPN AND UNIVISION/TELEFUTURA/GALAVISION HAVE BEEN SHUT OUT. TELEMUNDO HAS EXCLUSIVE ENGLISH AND SPANISH RIGHTS TO MEXICAN NATIONAL TEAM GAMES IN THE US IF THEY ARE PLAYED IN MEXICO. MUN 2 WILL BROADCAST THE GAME IN ENGLISH.
PERSONALLY IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME, LIVING IN THE MIAMI/FORT LAUDERDALE MARKET I AM USED TO WATCHING USA GAMES IN ESPANOL BECAUSE THEY ARE ALWAYS IN HD, AND THEY HAVE BETTER COMMENTATORS THAN ESPN. BUT I KNOW FOR MOST AROUND THE COUNTRY THIS IS A BAD BLOW.