Chicago (AFP) – Bruce Arena was rehired Tuesday for a second stint as United States head coach, replacing sacked German Jurgen Klinsmann.

The 65-year-old American who guided the United States to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals during his previous tenure from 1998-2006, struck a new deal Tuesday through to the 2018 Russia World Cup.

“I’m thrilled to be back with the national team,” Arena said. “I know we have a great challenge ahead but I believe we have a good pool of players to reach our ultimate goal of qualifying for Russia.”

Arena had been coach and general manager of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy  takes up his new role on December 1.

Former Germany player and coach Klinsmann was dumped after the Americans dropped their first two matches in the final round of North American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, losing 2-1 at home to arch-rival Mexico and 4-0 at Costa Rica.

“I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games,” said Arena.

“Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”

The timing for making the switch now gives Arena four months until the US squad faces another qualifier, allowing time for players to adjust and Arena to build momentum as the US tries to book an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance.

His first match will be a qualifier at home to Honduras on March 24.

When we considered the possible candidates to take over the men’s national team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. 

“His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach.”

Arena went 71-30 with 29 drawn when he guided the US squad from 1998 to 2006, but was dropped after a disappointing first-round exit at the 2006 World Cup. He was replaced by assistant Bob Bradley, who was fired in 2011 and replaced by Klinsmann.

In 2002, the Americans shocked Portugal in their World Cup opener and blanked Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16 before being eliminated by Germany in the quarter-finals.

Arena has coached a record five MLS Cup champions, guiding the Galaxy to crowns in 2011, 2012 and 2014 after taking the title with D.C. United in 1996 and 1997. 

“We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup in Russia,” Gulati said.

– Axe not just for two losses –

After a humbling fourth at last year’s Gold Cup against North American rivals and a loss to Mexico in a playoff to reach next year’s Confederations Cup in Russia, the woeful qualifying start doomed Klinsmann, Gulati said.

“None of us expected the two results we got,” Gulati said. “Those games, as well as the history we took into account, we felt we needed to go in a different direction to maximize our chances not only in March for qualifying but subsequently in Russia at the World Cup.

“It’s talking with people in and around the team, which we do on a regular basis. It’s all of those things together that led to the decision.”

Gulati said there will be no rush to name a new technical director after Klinsmann’s ouster.

“It wasn’t easy at a personal or professional level but it’s what I felt we had to do to give us the best chance for success in the next 18 months,” Gulati said.

Klinsmann raised awareness of the US team and raised the level of seriousness players took in their approach, Gulati said.

“That’s a positive,” Gulati said. “He came into a program that had a very solid foundation and built upon that.”