More than 19 months after he oversaw the biggest failure in the 100-plus year history of the United States men’s national team — a disastrous 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that left the Americans out of the World Cup for the first time in 32 years — Bruce Arena is still on the defensive.
Arena, who was hired as head coach and sporting director of the New England Revolution earlier this week, his first job since the qualifying debacle, told The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal that he has “nothing to redeem myself for” with the Revs.
A five-time MLS Cup winner and three-time NCAA champion who led U.S. all the way to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002, Arena is the most decorated coach in American history. But the fact remains that his most recent work irreparably tarnished what had been a sterling record, at least as long as it remained his swan song.
You’re only as good as your last game, and Arena’s last game, unfortunately for his legacy, happened to mark the lowest point in modern American soccer history. It didn’t help that Arena’s tactics and personnel choices were widely criticized by those left to sift through the wreckage.
Now, the 67-year-old New Yorker has a chance to write a new final chapter to his career as the main man in New England, a moribund club that desperately needs his help. Yet Arena still insists that his reputation doesn’t need to be repaired at all.
“We did a great job with the U.S. team,” Arena told Stejskal. “We fell short, but those [players] gave everything they had and on the last day, we fell short.
“The situation I inherited wasn’t perfect, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we knew when I was hired for that job that it was going to go down to the last day, and it did,” he continued. “No excuses.”
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