Arena, Galaxy have unfinished business

Bruce Arena begins his second training camp with the Los Angeles Galaxy looking to take care of some unfinished business after an unsuccessful appearance in last November's MLS Cup Final against Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy lost that game on penalty kicks and Arena, the club's head coach and general manager, said he was not completely satisfied despite the team's dramatic turnaround in 2009.

"At the end of the day you want to win championships," Arena said, "and we fell short in that area. Last year was a fabulous year for the team. For me personally, it was a good year as well."

Make that a very good year. Arena not only was named MLS Coach of the Year, but also recently was selected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on the builders' ballot. To be eligible for the hall as a builder, an individual in a non-playing capacity must have demonstrated a major, sustained and positive impact on U.S. soccer on a national or first division professional level for a minimum of 10 years.

To say Arena met those requirements would be an understatement. He has coached the U.S. men's national team to two World Cups, including a historic quarterfinal appearance in 2002, and he's won two MLS Cup titles and five NCAA championships.

Arena was the leading vote-getter on the builder ballot with 77.8 percent of the votes, well ahead of former U.S. men's national team coach Bob Gansler at 57.4 percent. But ask Arena what his latest accolade means to him, and he'll grudgingly say he's honored.

"I'm proud of that," he said. "But I've said this a number of times ... you've got to point to the people that have been around me all these years. Players, coaches, administrators, management that have supported me along the way. Those are great honors, but you can't do that as a coach if you don't have the support of a lot of people.

"I've been fortunate to have been around a lot of good people over the years."

One of them is his associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who started with Arena as a full-time assistant at the University of Virginia in 1984. Sarachan said he knows "what makes him tick" and agreed Arena rarely, if ever, lets his guard down, especially when it comes to recognition of his achievements in the game.

"Bruce has a lot of layers to him," Sarachan said. "When you get through the layers, only he will be able to tell you how he feels. But I think if he had the ability to step away and kind of reflect on the years he's put in, what he's put in and what he's accomplished, I don't think he'd be human if he didn't feel proud of that.

"It's true he doesn't allow himself to even get too far into that part of things because of his nature of always looking ahead."

Sarachan said Arena's induction into the Hall of Fame was long overdue.

"When people look back on the influences within our game in this country, Bruce should be in the Hall of Fame," Sarachan said. "People look on the exterior a lot with Bruce. He doesn't let you get in and perception isn't reality.

"The reality is he works hard, he puts a lot into it, he's a loyal guy and he's a proud guy. I think again if he could remove himself from the present and look back, I think he would be smiling knowing he's made an influence."

Sarachan also said Arena privately would look back on the 2009 season and regard it as a job well-done, despite the disappointing conclusion.

"Knowing Bruce as I do," he said, "when he began this project of the Galaxy and he asked me to come on board, he kind of looked at things like this as a three- or four-year process. I don't think we would have expected to quite get that far, even though I felt we had the ability within the group.

"I think he felt good about building this team and changing the culture of how things were done in the past. I believe he felt really good about last year because he's a builder and he likes to put things together."

Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

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