CHICAGO (November 22, 2016) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Bruce Arena as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The most decorated head coach in American soccer history, Arena most famously guided the U.S. to its best finish in the World Cup in more than 80 years with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 and returns to the job where he amassed the most wins of any coach in U.S. MNT history.
Arena, who will assume the role on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be formally introduced during a teleconference with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” said Gulati. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The Most Accomplished Coach in U.S. MNT History
Arena steps back into the job that he held over an eight-year tenure from 1998-2006. With a record of 71-30-29, the Brooklyn-born manager is by far the winningest coach in U.S. MNT history as well as the only head coach to lead the USA at two FIFA World Cups.
His crowning achievement came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he led the MNT to a 3-2 upset of Portugal in their opening match before advancing out of the group and earning a 2-0 shutout against Mexico in the Round of 16. Benefiting from the experience of his previous World Cup Qualifying campaign, the U.S. MNT advanced to the 2006 FIFA World Cup with relative ease, booking a place in Germany with three matches to spare in CONCACAF’s Final Round. Drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, a nine-man U.S. squad put in a gutsy performance to earn a 1-1 draw against eventual World Cup champions Italy.
Arena also led the U.S. to its second and third regional titles with championships at the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A History of Success
Beyond his National Team tenure, Arena has found success along every stop of his 40-plus year coaching career. The Long Island native won five NCAA Division 1 National Championships with the University of Virginia, including a still-standing record of four-straight from 1991-94.
His collegiate coaching tenure led him to his first international job, taking the reins of the U.S. U-23 team leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta where Arena guided the USA to a respectable 1-1-1 showing. Arena balanced his U-23 duties with his head coaching role of D.C. United in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer and helped to turn the club into the nascent league’s first true powerhouse. D.C. won four domestic titles on Arena’s watch – the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups, 1996 U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters Shield – as well as international hardware with the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup and 1998 Interamerican Cup.
Following his eight-year tenure with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena returned to club coaching for a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2006-07, before joining the LA Galaxy the following year. In LA, Arena worked to make the Galaxy the premier club in MLS, coaching the side to three MLS Cup titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as two Supporter Shield wins in 2010 and 2011. As the only five-time MLS Cup winning head coach, Arena has worked with numerous coaches throughout his time in Major League Soccer, serving as a mentor to many.
A three-time MLS Coach of the Year winner, Arena was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010 and five years later was named the recipient of the of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award, the highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“It’s been a whirlwind. I’m not exactly sure how it’s all happened.”-- U.S. WNT defender Casey Short on the last four years of her life.
Short’s professional soccer career almost ended before it had a chance to begin. As a senior at Florida State, Short tore her left ACL during preseason, which put her on the sidelines for the entire 2011 campaign. She used it as a redshirt year, completed rehab and was able to return to the field for the Seminoles in 2012.
Short had previously played midfielder and forward during her college career, but her senior year saw a move to defender where she played as Florida State’s outside left back in 23 games, helping her school set records for shutouts (17), goals against average (0.62) and fewest goals allowed in ACC play (4), while tying the program record for the fewest goals allowed in a season with 15.
Once her final college season was over, Short was feeling good physically and ready to take the next step in her soccer career. With the 2013 NWSL College Draft coming up, she knew her chances of becoming a pro were within sight. In the first round of the draft, the Boston Breakers selected Short with the fifth overall pick. It was a dream come true.
“I was on top of the world,” Short said. “I got picked early in the draft and then I got called up to the Under-23 Women’s National Team shortly after that to travel with the team to the Four Nations tournament.”
In the first game of the tournament in La Manga, Spain, Short collided with a couple of players and came down hard. She felt her right knee buckle and it was, unfortunately, a familiar feeling. And not a good one. The news was worse than expected…she had torn her ACL and MCL.
“I hadn’t signed with Boston yet so after that I didn’t know what to do,” Short said. “I was pretty much on my own, so I decided to go back to Florida State and have my surgery there with the same doctor that did my surgery during my senior year.”
The injury was both physically and emotionally taxing for Short, who just a few weeks earlier was preparing to start her pro career, something she’d been dreaming about since she was little. After completing the rehab for the injury she suffered in Spain, her right knee still did not feel right. The graft had not healed correctly. So in 2014, she was forced to totally re-do the surgery again, basically making it her third ACL reconstruction.
“That was rock bottom for me,” she said. “I had to re-do the whole process again and they had to reconstruct my knee. I ended up staying in Tallahassee to do my rehab because of the resources, familiarity and the facilities for another year. Finally, after that second rehab process, I got the opportunity to go to Norway and I decided to go to this small town for a year and I’m thankful I did. It was a great opportunity.”
Unsure of what her soccer future, Short took the chance and left for Norway to play for Avladsnes IL for the 2015 season.
“I played there for all of 2015, so my first game back after my latest injury was with them,” she said. “I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to stay there or not because I loved it so much, but then of course, I got the opportunity to come back to Chicago which was always the goal, because it’s home.”
Before the 2016 season, the Chicago Red Stars signed Short and after that, things finally began falling into place.
She started all 20 games for Chicago on the back line, playing 1,781 minutes and scoring two goals. There was no doubt that 2016 was looking good for Short. She was in her home state, not far from her hometown of Naperville, Illinois, playing the game she loved for a living and was finally healthy.
And then a potential career game-changer came via her cellphone.
“We were at the playoff game when I got the text message saying that I had an invitation to National Team camp,” she said. “We had just gotten to D.C. I was not processing it at all because I was focused on the playoff game, but it was incredible. I don’t think I could really celebrate the moment until after the playoffs were over and I was at home and it finally set in.”
Short’s first camp with the WNT was last October. And so was her first cap, first start and first 90 minutes on the field, all at the same time. U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis told Short the night before the USA vs. Switzerland game on Oct. 19, that she would be starting. She was surprised, but ready, or at least as ready as she could be for such an occasion.
“I did not expect that but I thought, what an opportunity,” she said. “I was so excited and I felt that it took some time for me to settle in in that game. Looking back, I can see that I was more comfortable in the second half. During the National Anthem, I was a bit emotional but as the game went on I settled in.”
Since then, Short has played in six games for the WNT, all starts and has become a key piece in Ellis’ lineup as she continues to evaluate players in search of the best pieces to take the field for the USA.
The last few years may have been a whirlwind, but they’ve also been a time for growth and learning. Short feels that she has matured and found confidence in herself as a player and more importantly, as a person.
“When I hit rock bottom I said, I have two options – I can feel sorry for myself or I can go after my dreams,” she said. “It was hard not to give up, but I stayed strong and now I’m here and I let this be my motivation every single day for everything I do.”
As she continues to work hard, Short is hoping to see some playing time in the next few weeks when the USA takes on Russia in Texas on April 6 (7:30 p.m. CT; FS1) and April 9 (1 p.m. CT; ESPN) in Frisco and Houston, respectively.
“I feel blessed every time I’m able to step on the field and it means a lot when I get to play but I know that nothing is guaranteed, not on this team,” she said. “So I’m thankful for every opportunity I get.”