Bruce Arena Resigns as USA Men's National Team Coach After 1 Year

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2017

U.S. coach Bruce Arena walks off the field after the team's friendly soccer match against Jamaica on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Billy Weeks)
Billy Weeks/Associated Press

United States men's national soccer team head coach Bruce Arena resigned Friday following Tuesday's shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in CONCACAF qualifying that caused the Americans to miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

Arena confirmed his exit from the post after 11 months in charge during his second stint with the USMNT with a message on U.S. Soccer's official website.

"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," he wrote. "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."

U.S. Soccer brought in Arena, who previously coached the national team from August 1998 through July 2006, to provide stability after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired last November. It was a last-ditch effort to salvage the side's World Cup hopes following a disastrous start to the Hex.

The United States opened the final round of qualifying with back-to-back losses against Mexico and Costa Rica, the latter an embarrassing 4-0 defeat that led to Klinsmann's dismissal.

Arena appeared to get things back on track for a while. He guided the team to a 14-match unbeaten streak (9-5-0) after taking charge, which included winning the 2017 Gold Cup in July.

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The U.S. endured another collapse during the final two sets of qualifiers, though. It suffered a 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica and then could only muster a draw against Honduras in September.

A 4-0 triumph over Panama in the first October qualifying fixture put the Americans in control of their own destiny heading in to the match with Trinidad and Tobago, but a lackluster effort combined with victories by Panama and Honduras ended the team's World Cup dreams.

"We didn't qualify for the World Cup," Arena told reporters. "That was my job. To get the team qualified for the World Cup. This game in my view was perfectly positioned for the U.S. team and we failed on the day. We have no excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point."

In all, Arena compiled a 85-33-30 across 148 matches in charge of the national team. The 66-year-old New York City native has also managed D.C. United, New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer.

His departure is one of several changes on the horizon before the next World Cup cycle. Several longtime key contributors, led by Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, will likely be phased out in favor of younger players as part of a rebuilding project.

Christian Pulisic was often the team's lone bright spot over the past couple of years. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder is a cornerstone for the future, but the lack of talent and creativity around him is a massive concern that must be addressed in the coming years.

All told, it's more clear than ever the USMNT needs a new identity. Now is the perfect time to search for a head coach who can force that culture change with at least five long years before the U.S. get another opportunity to compete in the World Cup.