Los Angeles (AFP) – An older, wiser Bruce Arena returned to the US national team coaching role Tuesday after a 10-year absence, vowing talent and hard work will result in a 2018 World Cup berth.
Arena, who had guided the team from 1998-2006 before taking charge of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy, was named to replace Jurgen Klinsmann, who was fired Monday after five years in the role.
The Americans lost WC2018 qualifiers 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 at Costa Rica, but their next qualifier is March 24 at home against Honduras, giving Arena time to revamp the squad in his image.
“We’ll develop an identity over the next couple of months to build the best team we can be and be ready when March 24 rolls around,” Arena said.
“I don’t think the roster is going to have radical changes but obviously there will be some. What I really know is how to build a team. I’m hopeful those qualities will allow me to get this team moving at full speed when qualifying starts in March.”
While Klinsmann often pitted players against one another to boost talent at every position, the impact hit camaraderie and Arena sees teamwork as a high priority.
“We need to build the chemistry of this team and have a common goal,” Arena said. “I believe we have good players. We’ve just got to get them working together as a team.
“It takes hard work. It takes communication. It takes discipline and it takes some talent. I believe we have enough talent to be in Russia in 2018. It’s going to take time, patience and a lot of hard work.”
Arena, whose 2002 lineup reached the World Cup quarter-finals before falling to Germany, said the US squad has advanced in the years since his contract was not renewed after a first-round ouster in the 2006 World Cup.
“US Soccer has made great progress, with the growth of the league, the players playing aborad, we have a very good pool of players,” Arena said.
“Winning World Cups is a very difficult thing to do. Only a select few teams in the world are able to do that. The US is edging closer to that day. Since I left in 2006, the pool of players has certainly expanded.”
Klinsmann pushed that by turning to many foreign-born US players, a move Arena and US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said remains a priority.