Bruce Arena: U.S. soccer ‘laid an egg’ in World Cup qualifier and had a ‘few bad eggs’
PHILADELPHIA — More than three months for the reason that U.S. nationwide soccer workforce’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena on Friday mirrored on a marketing campaign that he oversaw final yr and in the end faltered at a little stadium in a small city on a Caribbean island.
Speaking at a discussion board on the United Soccer Coaches conference, Arena detailed a number of the points that led to the 2-1 defeat to last-place Trinidad and Tobago and marked the tip of seven consecutive appearances by the U.S. program on the sport’s largest competitors.
A draw would’ve clinched a berth in this summer time’s event in Russia. Instead, “we laid an egg,” mentioned Arena, who, subsequently resigned his head teaching place.
The Americans had recovered from defeats in the primary two World Cup qualifiers underneath Arena’s predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann, and appeared poised to clinch CONCACAF’s third computerized berth.
“In a lot of ways, our team did a remarkable job coming back and positioning themselves to qualify,” Arena mentioned. “In all honesty, Mexico and Costa Rica had been higher groups . . . however we must always’ve been the third one. I settle for that duty. That’s why I resigned so shortly.
“That’s the way in which it goes. I don’t be ok with it, however that’s life. I’m not embarrassed by it as a result of as a teaching employees and as a workforce and an group, we actually gave the whole lot we had.”
Despite challenges in Trinidad, “you find a way to get off that field with a point. If you have a team of quality and the right chemistry, you battle through that game and get a point. I couldn’t care less what it looks like.”
An early personal purpose and a shot from nice distance left the Americans with a two-goal deficit at halftime.
“I felt if we went into halftime at 1-0, we had a chance to come back and get our point,” Arena mentioned. “We learn them the riot act at halftime. We advised our guys they had to exit and battle, discover a technique to create possibilities. We get the early purpose [by Christian Pulisic]. We really feel if we get one other purpose, we get the purpose, we get the hell out of right here. We’re going to World Cup. It by no means got here.
“I can’t clarify why it didn’t work. We had some guys who had bad video games. It was the identical workforce that had a outstanding efficiency 4 days earlier. I can’t clarify it.”
Four days earlier, the United States pounded Panama, Four-Zero, in Orlando. But as a substitute of injecting the lineup in opposition to Trinidad and Tobago with recent gamers, as he had completed in the away leg of the earlier units of matches, Arena made no adjustments. He mentioned he thought-about it, however in the wake of the convincing victory and a clear invoice of well being, he determined to stick with the identical group and ways.
The Americans had been flat in the beginning and fell behind, heightening the stress on the gamers.
“Top players respond to big games,” Arena mentioned of athletes in all sports activities. “Players that lack some high quality, the stress will get to them. Lots of [U.S.] gamers should have felt the stress. One factor I pleasure myself on is I get groups able to play. We understood the magnitude of the sport. Trinidad performed us very nicely in Denver [in the summer]. They performed very nicely in opposition to Mexico in their earlier sport.
“I advised [the players] we’ve bought to be prepared. I believe our gamers understood that. Lots of stress constructed up, particularly after we conceded the primary purpose. We appeared to get ourselves settled in after that and conceded one other purpose, and some folks cracked.”
Arena additionally mentioned the U.S. Soccer Federation unintentionally motivated the host workforce by posting images and video of standing water on and across the stadium area the day earlier than the match. U.S. employees was seen carrying gamers throughout the ankle-high threshold. It was, Arena mentioned, “humiliating” to the Trinidadians.
Asked if his gamers had taken sufficient pleasure in representing the nation and qualifying for the World Cup, Arena mentioned: “We had good citizens. We had a couple of bad eggs, as you have on every team. We were well aware and the players were aware” of who they had been.
Arena supplied excessive reward for the dedication put forth by gamers resembling Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. “I can say [good things] about a lot of guys. I don’t question their character at all.”
He did say, nevertheless, there was one veteran “we could never get through to.” He didn’t establish him, however a number of sources mentioned it was defender Geoff Cameron, who didn’t find yourself taking part in in the final two matches after beginning 4 of the earlier six qualifiers and getting into one as a sub.
After the T&T catastrophe, he mentioned one participant advised him, “This was a culture you couldn’t change is a short period of time.”
In normal, throughout his 10-month stint, Arena mentioned “there were a lot of things on that team that I didn’t feel right [about].”
Later, Arena additionally mentioned, “I never felt really comfortable with the team. We won the Gold Cup [last summer with many secondary players] — the only time we had that team together for 30 days. When we mixed [regulars] back in September, it wasn’t the same team or the right chemistry. It didn’t seem like everything was on the same page and had the same mentalities and the same understanding of what everything was about.”
The United States misplaced at residence to Costa Rica, “and we’re in trouble now.” Four days later, a late equalizer by Bobby Wood at Honduras saved the Americans in good place to qualify.
“We go down to Honduras and have to scramble. It has nothing to do with soccer; it’s survival of the fitness in those games. . . . We’re now six games into qualifying [since Arena was hired]. We made up a lot of ground and it’s down to the last two games.”
After the demolition of Panama, the Americans had been primed to clinch in Trinidad with a victory or draw. And then got here probably the most painful defeat in current U.S. historical past, in all probability ever.
Arena had figured he might get via the qualifying stage with the established group. “We didn’t have time to experiment. We had eight games to get it right and had a very small margin of error.”
He then deliberate to start rebuilding the roster forward of the World Cup. Of the 11 starters in Trinidad, possibly 4 would’ve been on the sector for the World Cup opener eight months later, Arena mentioned.
“We knew we had to get better, but we somehow had to get through 2017 and make our team better for the World Cup.”
Even so, he added, “I would say we weren’t going to be in a great position to get out of the group stage at the World Cup.”
Of the failed qualifying marketing campaign, “It was a mountain to climb” to qualify after the 2 opening defeats, Arena mentioned. “We got most of the way up there but then slid down at the end.”