Several weeks remain before Bruce Arena's first full season as head coach/sporting director of the New England Revolution begins, though he’s still making headlines regarding his former post.
In an interview with Matt Pentz of The Athletic, Arena has offered some thoughts on his latest tenure as US men’s national team head coach. He took over from Jurgen Klinsmann midway through the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying cycle, with a final Hexagonal loss at Trinidad and Tobago ensuring the USMNT wouldn’t advance to Russia.
“For me, it was a great experience, that year in 2017, pushing that team and trying to get qualified for the World Cup,” Arena told The Athletic. “We couldn’t have come any closer than we came. And it’s unfortunate that we didn’t qualify. But I’m very proud of the job myself and my staff did, and the effort the players gave.
“I think the American public, and the media, did a really poor job, even to this day, of articulating what happened, and the real world of those things. It’s all part of the sport. You don’t win all the time. If I’m not mistaken, in the last World Cup, Italy wasn’t in it, and Holland wasn’t in it. And we’re not in it, so wake up and deal with it. It’s all part of it.”
Arena previously led the USMNT at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, with 2018 the first time they’d been absent since the 1986 edition. Later this summer, the USMNT will begin qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar under the auspices of Gregg Berhalter, who’s amid his second year at the helm.
The latest remarks from Arena come several weeks after his declaration that the USMNT would advance to Qatar. They’re likely to again slot into the Hex, with the top three sides automatically qualifying and the fourth going to a playoff round. The bottom two will miss out entirely.
“It’s not great, but it’s not terrible,” Arena told ESPN FC of the USMNT under Berhalter. “I think they’ll be positioned to qualify for the next World Cup. I have no doubt in my mind they’ll qualify the next World Cup. No doubt.”
As the USMNT further prepares for the impending qualifying cycle, their next matches are scheduled for March 26 against the Netherlands and March 30 against Wales. Both games will be held in Europe.