As the US Men’s National Team walked off the MAPFRE Stadium pitch in Columbus last November, they knew they were in a big hole. Four days later, it became a question of whether or not they would qualify for the World Cup. As Costa Rica went up 2-0 in the match that sealed Jürgen Klinsmann’s fate, it almost felt as if they had quit. The fight was gone. 208 days later, the fight was back. In that time they gained their belief, overturned a lopsided goal differential in 60 minutes, and are now on track to qualify for Russia after picking up a big point at Estadio Azteca. A lot of it is thanks to Bruce Arena.
Bruce Arena Has Been The Remedy The USMNT Needed
When the United States brought in Bruce Arena, they needed somebody who had experience within the CONCACAF qualification realm. They needed a “player’s coach” as well. The team looked and seemed dejected after that loss against Costa Rica. In watching that match against Honduras, their was belief again. A confidence in their ability to do the job, and execute the plan. I wrote about that after that 6-0 drubbing.
On Sunday, the same thing was apparent. They were confident in their roles, they were confident in their ability to at least get out of the Azteca with a point. Frankly, they should’ve had more. But that’s not the purpose of this article.
The purpose here is to show that they have accomplished what they set out to do when Arena was hired. Maybe not job done, but it’s still being done, and done well. That was the purpose. Arena and his methods have worked. And thanks to what he’s been able to do with this team, they’re back on track for qualification.
Just take a look at these comments from Michael Bradley in his postgame interview with FOX:
“Look, we were pretty honest with ourselves and understood that we had let a lot of little things drop. And I think Bruce came in and has done a really good job of just little by little, making sure that we get back to who we are. And we’ve just got to keep going.”
I’ll take you back to some quotes from the article I wrote after the Honduras match in March. This was from Omar Gonzalez:
“He’s given us a ton of confidence by letting guys be themselves and (letting) everyone play their game.”
And then here is Omar Gonzalez’s quote from tonight:
“Sometimes with Jurgen you wouldn’t know until the day of the game. It’s just stressful, so with Bruce here taking that kind of approach here, it’s been helping out a lot.”
I went back to this quote from Klinsmann’s 2013 interview with Sporting News in that article from March and I’ll do it again:
“I can only get to another level by bringing in new players and challenging the older players. By challenging them in every training session, by giving them uncertain feelings here and there—‘Do I play or not play?’—and so on.”
Frankly, Klinsmann had the right idea trying to play a 3-5-2, and trying to move Pulisic centrally. But the execution and understanding within the players wasn’t there. It was evident. Under Klinsmann, they rarely ever looked prepared.
Now every time they come out, they look focused, and understand the way they need to play. It will go a long way for them as we move into the Gold Cup and final World Cup Qualifying matches this cycle. Arena has helped put the United States into a really good position to qualify, and that’s the bottom line. That’s what they needed from him.