CARSON, Calif. – Make no mistake, Kenny Arena's spot on the LA Galaxy coaching staff isn't about nepotism.
Sure, his father is Bruce Arena, who lured his son from Florida International University in early January, but the Galaxy boss – the most revered coach in American soccer – was simply making the right hire.
“He's a good coach. He happens to be my son,” Bruce said. “Would he be here if he wasn't my son? I'd say there's a good chance of that. Just being my son made it a little easier to recruit him, but I would have sought out a coach of his caliber.”
Kenny, 33, has built a fine resume since his playing days ended in 2005, with roles at UCLA and in the Galaxy's Academy leading to two seasons in charge of FIU's program. That experience greatly broadened his coaching knowledge, and he returns to LA with something to contribute.
“When I was the head coach of a team in the academy, I came to the conclusion that you are not going to improve as a coach unless you are a head coach yourself,” Kenny told MLSsoccer.com. “I really put my time [with the academy team] when I was at UCLA, to develop my craft on my own, and the last two years I got to manage more than just the team, practice and games.
"And now it's brought me back here, and I feel I've gotten enough time on my own to develop as a coach where I can contribute at this level as an assistant.”
Kenny, a former defender, played at the University of Virginia under George Gelnovatch, his father's successor in Charlottesville. Kenny also went to the 2001 World Youth Championship with the US Under-20 national team, with Landon Donovan among his teammates, and was drafted by the MetroStars in 2003. He made 20 MLS appearances in two seasons, and retired after spending 2005 with D.C. United.
A season as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater led to a paying job on George Mason's staff, and then he joined Jorge Salcedo's staff at UCLA for four years. He also guided the Galaxy's Under-16 team, winning the US Soccer Development Academy title in 2011.
FIU came calling in 2012.
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“Just being a head coach, running his program [was important],” Bruce said. “I think he could have stayed and been very successful, but I think he needs to be in a better environment, because he's a guy that should be a top professional coach one day.”
Bruce first saw the coach inside Kenny before adolescence.
“He was always interested in what I was doing, and he'd hand me lineups every once in a while for my teams,” Bruce said. “He's always had that interest, he's always been inquisitive about things, and over the last 10 years he's had a focus in coaching, and he's demonstrated to me he's a good coach. That's why I have him here.”
Kenny, who works closely with the Galaxy's defenders, says he's gained insights from working with his father and says Bruce is “a lot more patient than I knew – he has a great deal of patience, and he's one of those people who in a timely manner says something that will really sink in, whether you're in the staff or a player.”
In what ways is Kenny like Bruce?
“I hear when he was younger, he was a lot more volatile than he is today,” Kenny said. “I initially was very volatile, transitioning from playing to coaching. And now I've calmed down a ton. Not just for my sanity, but it's more effective as a coach.
“He is very, very calm. He does not overreact 99 percent of the time, and he's extremely insightful. That comes with experience, but I'd like to think I'm a sponge and you don't have to tell me something twice. I just keep adding to what I know.”