Chicago (AFP) – Bruce Arena, called upon last November to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as coach of the United States, resigned Friday, three days after the Americans failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 66-year-old Arena, who guided the US team into the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals and also coached the squad into the 2006 World Cup, said failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986 was a “major setback.”

“Questions rightly should be asked about how we can improve,” Arena said in a statement. “No doubt this process already has started and will continue so that US Soccer can progress.”

The Americans lost 2-1 Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago in the final match of North American (CONCACAF) regional qualifying. Combined with victories by Honduras and Panama, it was enough to leave the US team fifth in the table and out of Russia.

Arena, 66, replaced German legend Klinsmann after the Americans opened with losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. The US team was third in the table entering the final match but struggled against an already-eliminated Caribbean side.

“It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s national team and as I leave that role today, I am honored and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career,” Arena said.

“When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate. Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months and, in the end, we came up short. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.”

Arena pointed to the growth and development of the American program since the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup.

“It also is important to recognize the tremendous growth and accomplishments we have achieved over the past two decades in all areas, including player development, coaching education and a stable domestic professional league,” Arena said.

“This work is ongoing and despite the result in Trinidad, the sport is on the right path. By working together, I am confident soccer in this country will continue to grow in the years and decades ahead.”

Arena did drop a supportive mention of American coaches in his farewell address, a hint he would support the US squad looking to another American to guide the team in its quest to reach the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

“While this is a difficult time, I maintain a fierce belief that we are heading in the right direction,” Arena said. “I believe in the American player and the American coach, and with our combined efforts the future remains bright.”

Arena, who had coached the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer before leaving to guide US fortunes, said he is uncertain about his next plans.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I can say this from the bottom of my heart: from the high of reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup to the low of a few days ago, I have appreciated every minute of being a part of this program,” Arena said.