Major League Soccer announced that LA Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena captured the 2009 MLS Coach of the Year honor after leading his club to its first playoff berth since the 2005 season and a top seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket with a 12-6-12 record and 48 points.
Arena, now in his second season as Galaxy head coach, led Los Angeles to one of the most dramatic single season turnarounds in MLS history. In 2008, the Galaxy finished at the bottom of the Western Conference with an 8-13-9 record and 33 points while also giving up a League-high 62 goals.
One of Arena's biggest priorities during the 2009 off season was to solidify its defense. Arena drafted University of Maryland star defender Omar Gonzalez with the third overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and brought in U.S. national team veteran Gregg Berhalter to fill in the center of the backline.
Arena also handed the netminding duties to first-year MLS goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, a 32-year-old Jamaican international who spent most of his career in Europe. Berhalter, Gonzalez and Ricketts were a big reason the Galaxy cut their goals-against average in half from 2008 allowing just 31 goals this season -- the biggest single season goals against reversal by a team in League history.
In addition to shoring up the defense, Arena also brought in a host of new players, meshed them together, and helped reconcile the highly-publicized differences between star players Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
The Galaxy began the 2009 season with a 1-1-9 record and did not initially look like an MLS Cup contender, but Beckham returned in midseason after a loan spell with AC Milan and the Galaxy began winning more often than not. LA even vied for the best record in MLS into the last weeks of the season. On Friday, Arena's team hosts the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Championship at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Click here to listen to Arena and Houston Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear (2005 MLS Coach of the Year) discuss the match.
Arena was hired as head coach and general manager of the Galaxy on Aug. 18, 2008 and led the Galaxy to a 2-5-3 record over the final 10 games of the 2008 season. Prior to being hired by the Galaxy, Arena served as coach of the New York Red Bulls during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. His most successful MLS stint came as the head coach of D.C. United from 1996 through 1998, where he captured two MLS Cup championships in three appearances. Arena ranks fourth all-time in MLS regular season wins and has compiled a regular season coaching record of 91-62-25. He holds the highest postseason winning percentage (.705) and is tied with Bob Bradley for second all-time in post season wins with 14.
Following the 1998 MLS season, he was named the head coach of the U.S. National Team. He would hold that position for eight years, helping the U.S. team reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup as well as a berth in the 2006 World Cup. During an 18-year-career at the University of Virginia, Arena led the Cavaliers to five national championships.
This is the second MLS Coach of the Year honor for Arena. He joins current U.S. National Team head coach Bob Bradley, and Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid as a two-time recipient of the award. Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid and Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha were the other finalists for the Coach of the Year award.
MLS Coach of the Year Winners:2009: Bruce Arena - Los Angeles Galaxy
2008: Sigi Schmid - Columbus Crew
2007: Preki - Chivas USA
2006: Bob Bradley - Chivas USA
2005: Dominic Kinnear - San Jose Earthquakes
2004: Greg Andrulis - Columbus Crew
2003: Dave Sarachan - Chicago Fire
2002: Steve Nicol - New England Revolution
2001: Frank Yallop - San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Bob Gansler - Kansas City Wizards
1999: Sigi Schmid - Los Angeles Galaxy
1998: Bob Bradley - Chicago Fire
1997: Bruce Arena - D.C. United
1996: Thomas Rongen - Tampa Bay Mutiny