Turns out, he didn’t quite mean that.
The USMNT manager told reporters on Monday in a wide-ranging interview published by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl that he made the comment mainly to take the heat off of his players after the defeat, which left the US in a bit of a perilous position heading into Tuesday’s qualifier at Honduras (5:30 pm ET | beIN SPORTS, NBC Universo).
“I do that so you guys don’t have to try to be creative and actually try to figure out what happened in the game,” Arena told reporters. “So that allows you to get out of the thing easy and you don’t start dealing with the players and being critical. What are they [US Soccer] going to do? Fire me? If they fire me, they fire me. It’s over with. What are you going to do?”
“To be honest with you, I didn’t really necessarily mean that,” he added. “I just said that so you don’t have to spend any time critiquing anyone else.”
Arena expanded even further on the topic after a reporter remarked that he made similar comments after the US’ 1-1 draw against Panama to start the Gold Cup.
“It worked again for you dopes! You’re back again, aren’t you? … I think too often coaches get too much credit and too much blame. The game is really the players are playing the game. You’re preparing them to play, but I think it goes way too far,” he said. “I giggle most of the time, to be honest with you. I know coaches, and we always laugh about it when the game is decided by the coach. Of all games, a soccer game is decided by the coach?”
Arena held court as only he can on a variety of other topics, including the impact of politics on international matches, on MLS players being more fit than those who play for European teams at this point in the year and whether a World Cup run could unite the country. His entire comments are well worth a read – check them out here.