On the one-week anniversary of returning to the role of head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, the man who led the MNT to its best finish in the World Cup in 80 years, Bruce Arena, touched on the most important initial topics he will address with the MNT.
“The immediate focus is analyzing the pool of players, getting the pool of players assembled for January camp, trying in my own mind to have an entire pool set up until March, because there’s going to be an important progression from January until March as well. And then obviously working inside U.S. Soccer to help determine some of the mechanics necessary to move the whole program forward. The things that I need and the assets they have and how we go about it as we continue to move forward.”
“In terms of depth, I think having the next man up is important, as well. Forget about whoever you think the 11 are. It’s maybe the next 11 who are equally important because once you get into the thick of things in qualifying, there’s going to be a lot of suspensions, and injuries, and issues.”
“My comments were referencing player development. They had nothing to do with the citizenship of players and that type of thing. I think the phrase foreign nationals is a very poor term, whoever uses it. I will not use it. I will not use dual-citizens. They’re National Team players.”
FROM JANUARY TO MARCH
“The January camp is important because there’s a little bit of a short window in qualifying in March and players from abroad are going to be traveling on that weekend. The game is on Friday against Honduras, which gives us five days. That will help the European-based players get a little bit more acclimated. But then there’s a quick turnaround to Panama. That’s still a lot of travel, a lot of activity and we want to have an option of playing other players. The January Camp is going to help do that in a couple senses: identify players we think can play, and get them moving a lot quicker to get them match fit so as they enter the month of March with the MLS clubs, by March 24th those players are going to be close to full fitness, which we’ll need.”
THE PLAYER POOL
“It didn’t take me a long time to do it. I know all the players. I don’t think there are going to be a lot of surprises in the pool of players I have. At this point, there may be changes in the summer when we’re when we’re in the Gold Cup and can introduce a few more players, but in March and June, we have to have fairly established players at the international level playing. We’re not experimenting in those games.
“Let’s be honest. It’s not going to be a whole lot of new faces. We’re fighting for our lives starting March 24th. We’re behind the eight-ball coming out of the gates with two losses. You don’t have a whole lot of time to be experimenting with new players.”
“I feel it’s my responsibility in the sport, given the opportunity to do it. I find it challenging and I find it critically important for the growth of our sport."