The first shoe dropped today when Bruce Arena stepped down as coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team in the wake of Tuesday’s shocking World Cup elimination.
With news of Arena’s resignation still swirling, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati addressed the U.S. Soccer media via phone press conference call and quickly made it known that he would not be following his hand-picked coach out the door, despite taking responsibility for the team’s failure.
Gulati was less forthcoming regarding his plans to run, or not, for another term as President of U.S. Soccer, although in citing the “totality” of his tenure and the three-way U.S. Mexico, and Canada bid for the 2026 World Cup, the Columbia economics professor sounded like a man with unfinished business.
“I can understand the frustration with people, sure,” Gulati answered when GotSoccer asked if, given that Gulati had hired both Jurgen Klinsmann and his replacement Bruce Arena, the two men who led U.S. Soccer to its lowest moment, why many would prefer that someone else be charged with selecting the next USMNT coach?
Gulati told the press that he and his colleagues would be evaluating all aspects of the U.S. soccer system, mentioning perennial hot topics, pay for play, and involving inner-city youth and Hispanic players, saying that “we need to go deeper” and “find the right solutions.”
Gulati said that the USMNT will play two scheduled friendlies in November and that a “short-term” coach will be appointed in seven to 10 days,” with a full-time hire tabled for the moment.
Rumors had circulated that Tab Ramos would take the role on an interim basis but Gulati said that “I don’t think there is a definite profile” for Arena’s successor.
Finally a statement from Bruce Arena, the first – best American soccer coach.
It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s National Team, and as I leave that role today, I am honored and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career.
When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate. Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months and, in the end, we came up short. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.
This certainly is a major setback for the senior Men’s National Team program, and questions rightly should be asked about how we can improve. No doubt this process already has started and will continue so that U.S. Soccer can progress. Having said that, it also is important to recognize the tremendous growth and accomplishments we have achieved over the past two decades in all areas, including player development, coaching education and a stable domestic professional league. This work is ongoing and despite the result in Trinidad, the sport is on the right path. By working together, I am confident soccer in this country will continue to grow in the years and decades ahead.
Obviously the biggest disappointment is for our fans. As a person involved in the sport for more than 40 years, to see how support for soccer in the United States has grown is incredibly gratifying. I believe I speak for everyone involved in the game in thanking all of you for your passion and commitment, and I hope you maintain your steadfast support of U.S. Soccer.
While this is a difficult time, I maintain a fierce belief that we are heading in the right direction. I believe in the American player and the American coach, and with our combined efforts the future remains bright. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I can say this from the bottom of my heart: from the high of reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup to the low of a few days ago; I have appreciated every minute of being a part of this program.