U.S. men's national team manager Bruce Arena apologized Friday for his comments in a New York Times article that appeared Tuesday, stressing that while he stands by the content of the piece, he is "disappointed" by the tone.
"I want to be clear about this," Arena said. "I'm very proud and honored to be part of U.S. Soccer, and I'm indebted to MLS for giving me the opportunity in coaching and the three memorable years I had at D.C. United.
"I support MLS. I think the league has done great things for the sport in our country."
In the article, Arena was quoted as saying that neither U.S. Soccer nor Major League Soccer have "any administrators with soccer skills, in terms of knowing the game." Arena also referred to the MLS All-Star Game as "a complete waste of time" and said of MLS, "Most of the regular-season games mean nothing." The former D.C. United head coach lamented the fact that MLS does not take time off for World Cup qualifiers, as well.
On Friday, at the start of a conference call to announce the national team roster for the next two CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches against El Salvador (Oct. 9) and Panama (Oct. 13), Arena took time to apologize to anyone he might have offended with his remarks. He specifically mentioned four league administrators, referring to MLS investor-operators Lamar Hunt, Phil Anschutz and Robert Kraft as "good people with great vision." Arena also praised the league staff and player personnel.
"[Commissioner] Don Garber and his staff, plus the coaches and players of MLS, are truly dedicated to the game," Arena said. "If we're going to move forward with the game in this country and one day be a nation capable of winning the World Cup, we're going to be led by our professional league. I really believe that, and the future of the sport in this country is dependent on MLS."
While Arena said he stands by what he said during the interview, he repeatedly emphasized that the tone of the article was not what he expected it to be and added that he regrets how his comments came across in the newspaper. He said the interview "didn't receive rave reviews at MLS or U.S. Soccer," but stressed that the decision to apologize was his, and not that of an administrator at either organization.
"There's nothing in there that I don't agree with. In general the overall tone of the article was not appropriate and not what I was attempting to put forth," he said. "I think the tone was wrong. The content, perhaps, was not, but the tone of it was definitely wrong.
"I can pledge I'm going to do everything I can and everything possible to help make this league succeed. That's why I am disappointed in the way this article came out. I have no excuses for that."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.