Bruce Arena joined BSI: The Podcast for a wide-ranging discussion this week, including his time multiple stints as US men’s national team head coach.
The New England Revolution coach had two stints as USMNT coach and didn't hold back about the group he inherited after taking over for Jurgen Klinsmann during the 2018 World Cup cycle. The team ultimately did not qualify after failing to earn at least a draw in Trinidad & Tobago on the final day of the Hex.
"The team I had in 2017 — that I inherited — as a coaching staff we talked about 'If we can get through this year and qualify for the World Cup we have to make a dozen changes to this team.' We just didn't have the right characters and a lot of guys weren't in it for the right reasons," said Arena about trying to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after taking over for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Arena also weighed in on Gregg Berhalter’s managerial style and the young USMNT challenging road to qualify for the 2022 World Cup
“It’s going to take Gregg a little time. He’s got a lot of young players now, which makes it even more difficult,” Arena said. “It’s going to be challenging, but having said that, I think they do have a good group of talent.”
Arena clearly has a different coaching philosophy than Berhalter, who he calls “a young coach and he’s really into the sports science and the conditioning and all the metrics are important and analytics and all of those things.”
The US coaching legend is famous for his ability to manage personalities, including those of David Beckham and Landon, over the years.
“Sometimes you’ve got to step away and look at guys and say who can play,” he said. “They’re looking at 50 different things sports scientists are telling them to look at, looking at all the data and this and that. Sometimes you’ve got to look at the characteristics of the players and see what’s going to make a team and what kind of leaders you have.”
Arena touts Christian Pulisic “as talented as any player that’s ever worn the shirt of the United States,” and the Chelsea midfielder is part of a young, promising core including Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.
But it’s a group that has yet to be challenged on the road in Concacaf qualifying.
“When you go into Honduras, that talent doesn’t mean *,” Arena said bluntly. “It’s about rolling up your sleeves and battling because you don’t have control of a lot of stuff — the officiating is terrible, the fields are terrible. It’s all of that * they haven’t been through before. This is a young group so they haven’t gone through these grueling campaigns and dealing with all the stuff you deal with in Concacaf.”
Listen to the first part of the Arena interview here. Part II drops Friday.