June 23, 2006

USA-Soccer's Tin Man? Bruce Arena-Sore Loser?: How could the Americans, even ignoring the inflated status FIFA imposed upon them, show such heart and yet disappoint so utterly?...Some players complained that Arena did not even shake his counterpart's hand after the game.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY to soccer at 12:02 AM - 29 comments

Huh? Whu..uhh sorry: I got distracted by that Brazilian Beyonce look-alike. If Arena didn't shake Dujkovic's hand, then he displayed a distinct lack of class. Perhaps Bruce read too much into the hype (#5 FIFA ranking; the great showing in the '02 Cup; and the higher expectations.) I don't know how else to explain such a flat performance against the Czech Republic; followed by a spirited game against Italy; and then a weak offensive (VERY offensive) effort against Ghana. If Arena DOES step down/get fired as coach, then John Harkes or Claudio Reyna might be viable candidates to replace him (amongst other previous choices other SpoFi posters mentioned.)

posted by curtangle at 12:49 AM on June 23, 2006

Whoa, BABES OF THE WORLD CUP! Now that was a nice find off your main post. Thanks, Texan! Paging StarFooker!

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:25 AM on June 23, 2006

Before the competition started I would have expected Italy and the Czech Republic to qualify out of this group. I think that is what most people would have thought too? Not getting through to the next round shouldn't be such a disappointment (try not qualifying at all), but the way some of the matches were played would be a cause for concern, were I a US supporter. That being said I think the penalty call in the Ghana match was harsh.

posted by Fence at 03:43 AM on June 23, 2006

The call was junk but one can't blame the referees for losing a game. Maybe the 1-4-5-1 doesn't work, at least not with a 5'8" striker. Don't know enough about coaching for world class soccer teams to say for sure wether or not Arena screwed up, but it seems to be the consensus. Go Spain (my name is also Raul)

posted by GoBirds at 05:24 AM on June 23, 2006

After watching Arena's press conference after the loss to Ghana, I hope he's gone. Gone, gone, gone. While I agree that the penalty kick call was harsh, to blame the entire game on one call is ridiculous, childish, and unprofessional as a coach. Especially as a coach of a National team. After his petulant, rambling, I'm-so-cool performance in front of the reporters, I'm wondering if anybody ever told him that he's representing his country. Go away, Bruce. Go, pursue your ambiguous "other opportunities," and never darken the doorstep of U.S. Soccer again.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:33 AM on June 23, 2006

Like I said I think the peno was a tough break, but I'd agree with you GoBirds, it isn't an excuse. In the end these things usually work themselves out, and if you are good enough to win, then you'll win. Look at the Australia v Croatia match, reffing howlers all over the shop. But overall the Aussies were the better team and got their deserved draw.

posted by Fence at 06:43 AM on June 23, 2006

It always comes down to the quality of players. Soccer has never been our countries number one sport. I see basketballs, stick balls, skateboards, etc., being played by our youth, never soccer. As in other countries.

posted by dstdz at 06:46 AM on June 23, 2006

I haven't seen the numbers, dstdz, but I understand that football is the most played sport by US youth, so I guess that you just haven't seen those youth come through sufficiently yet, without being pulled off into the more established US sports. As for Arena, the 4-5-1 is fine, but not in the second half of a game you're losing, where only a win is good enough. The sight of your extra forwards sitting on the bench to start the second half of the Ghana game said it all about Arena. After the game, Arena was complaining about the penalty, (which still looks like a penalty to me when viewed at full speed, (even though it doesn't when viewed slow-mo)), saying that the goal lead gave the Ghanaians the opportunity to sit back and soak up pressure, but his response to this was to send out one forward to start the second half. For my own two cents, I think you should go find an established European coach, (I vote for Scolari), then pluck some young and promising coach from MLS and pay him to sit in Scolari's pocket for the next four years, while still working in some club role in MLS. Cue 2011 and you have a young American coach for your national team, exposed to European, (and with Scolari, South American), ideas and methods, who is still recognisable to domestic fans.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:13 AM on June 23, 2006

Mr Bismarck, that's some of the most valuable two cents I've read in a while. So true. Because no matter how much Arena stank up the place, the US has no one better (by far).

posted by Hugh Janus at 08:21 AM on June 23, 2006

I agree with Mr. B. I don't agree with the article's statement that the team showed heart. In fact it seemed more like they couldn't give a rat's patootie about playing the Ghana (or Czech) matches. As Mr B said, Arena should have started the second with another striker (Eddie Johnson by default) paired with McBride. But even when Johnson did enter the game, he looked unprepared and uninterested; getting beat to balls by players who had played significantly more minutes. Time for Arena to try something else. I'd like to see if he could hold his own in a league outside of the US. He did well at UVA, DC United and in 2002 at the World Cup. Maybe he needs to experience the game in another country. His players could use some of that experience as well. Dempsey was the only MLS-based player who I thought played well in all 3 games, and his goal was brilliant. Donovan needs to quit being a whiny homesick little boy and try to make a squad in Europe again. He is only 24, and the big fish in a little pond isn't going to win anything but the MLS trophy, and how long is that going to be enough for him? Today's matches should be interesting. See some of you around the campfire.

posted by scully at 08:31 AM on June 23, 2006

There's a rumor that the German national team coach is going to take over for Arena in the near future. Someone should.

posted by ursus_comiter at 09:10 AM on June 23, 2006

"As for Arena, the 4-5-1 is fine, but not in the second half of a game you're losing, where only a win is good enough."

Not to be a stickler but couldn't you argue that all 3 matches were this way? Group of death and whatnot.

I was actually pretty happy with how he publically called out the players after the Czech match, however, coupled with his words and attitude after the Ghana match made me sick. I've known he's arrogant ever since I went to his soccer camp as a kid but I never thought he was a complete prick.

posted by redsnare at 09:46 AM on June 23, 2006

I think Bruce may be the best coach we have ever had. However he has been on the job too long and his tactics have become stale. The most discouraging thing to me as a coach was his body language and handling of players. First he called out some of his players after the Czech game, you dont do that in the press. During every game whenever a call went against the US Bruce would throw his hands in air in disgust and spew profanities at the ref (I can read lips)...not the way to get future calls to go your way. He also would throw his hands up and turn around in disgust whenever the team made a mistake, not how to develop confidence of your players during a match. Finally he criticized the officiating from the onset and that is not smart going into the most important game of the cup...no surprise the US had a marginal call go against them.

posted by urall cloolis at 09:50 AM on June 23, 2006

I agree with Terrapin about Dempsey. However Donovan is not even close to being a big fish in a small pond. He is a marginal MLS player, he has never dominated in MLS or been a clear cut stand out player. He is in the press because US Soccer wants him to become the US version of Beckham...a marketing tool...anyone who knows anything about the sport knows why Donovan didn't make it in Europe his first two tries- he is simply not very good. His performance in the cup just reinforces that.

posted by urall cloolis at 09:56 AM on June 23, 2006

Surprised nobody has mentioned our captain yet. Claudio Reyna had his pride injured so much he needed a stretcher. It made me sick that he did not even try to recover and defend after making such a horrendous error. Hiding mistakes behind injuries instead of taking responsibility and playing with pride, another reason the US failed miserably.

posted by urall cloolis at 10:06 AM on June 23, 2006

Brian Goff and Skip Sauer have a couple of clear-headed takes on the US difficulties at The Sports Economist. A particularly relevant quote from Goff (emphasis his):

The lack of "emotion, energy, and urgency" that developed over the course of the game is the result of a team that can only counterattack in wide spaces limited to having to attack in limited space -- something that it is painfully obvious the U.S. cannot do well nor can any team with few (or no) players who can beat someone one-one-one in tight spaces.

posted by Amateur at 10:18 AM on June 23, 2006

I said the other day Arena has to go and ought to be replaced with a European/Brazilian coach and yesterday's effort changed nothing fo rme. Reyna is retiring from international play, okay. Donovan was a dominant MLS player, urall, I watched him play during the years in San Jose and he was the team's engine, but since his second, strange adventure with Bayern Leverkusen he's been a different player. He needs to think back to 2002/2003 and remember what made him the best American player, and then take that back to Europe. Otherwise we need a new midfield leader for 2008.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2006

I see basketballs, stick balls, skateboards, etc., being played by our youth, never soccer. As in other countries. Today, however, according to FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the United States has more official soccer players than any other nation in the world - almost 18 million.

posted by grum@work at 12:38 PM on June 23, 2006

That should be taken with a grain of salt, though, grum. First, the US has a large population -- about 60% larger than Brazil's, and twice the size of Russia's. The next South American or European country in population is Germany, at ~85 million, which is about 30% of USA's. They get smaller from there. Second, the US is extremely good at counting ... what I mean is, that a very high percentage of people who play soccer in the US are registered in some local organization, which is part of some state organization, which is part of the national organization ... and because of that formal structure it is relatively easy to count all the soccer players. That may also be true in many other countries, but it's probably not the case in the developing world. This report from the SGMA says that among Americans 6 and older, outdoor soccer is the 24th most popular "Sport/Activity," at 15.8 million participants. Many things on the list are not what I would consider sports (*ahem*) but soccer does come in behind basketball and inline skating (marginally).

posted by Amateur at 01:01 PM on June 23, 2006

I think most of the activities in that report could be lumped together under exercise though. For example, number 6,7, and 8 are running/jogging, day hiking, and fitness walking respectively. There is also a place for hand weights and another for dumbells.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:29 PM on June 23, 2006

I agree, 24th is not a really meaningful number. But the point is that the original comment (approximately "soccer is not as popular as other sports") is factual.

posted by Amateur at 02:33 PM on June 23, 2006

I see basketballs, stick balls, skateboards, etc., being played by our youth, never soccer. Clearly, you're not in the 'burbs, where soccer reigns supreme. Where are you seeing stickball? Do you have access to some kind of time portal that goes back to New York City circa 1950?

posted by rcade at 02:50 PM on June 23, 2006

I agree, 24th is not a really meaningful number. But the point is that the original comment (approximately "soccer is not as popular as other sports") is factual. I think perhaps a better phrasing of soccer's popularity in the U.S. is that soccer is (or is one of) the most popular organized sport(s) in the U.S. As noted by others, the list in the SGMA report includes all manner of recreational activities. I bet the bowling number, e.g., takes a big hit if you take only organized bowling (i.e., those in leagues). Same can be said for other activities on the list that are more in line with what we would consider "sports," such as basketball. Whereas soccer in the U.S., for the most part, is not a "pick-up" sport.

posted by holden at 03:16 PM on June 23, 2006

The reason for my link was for the tail end of the original quote: "..never soccer." I just wanted to point out that if dstdz has never seen kids playing soccer, he's living in a different place than most Americans.

posted by grum@work at 03:30 PM on June 23, 2006

Stick ball is in now that the price of these has gone through the roof. I blame Bush. Of the 18 million Americans who play soccer, 78% are under the age of eighteen. That would mean @ 14 million. If you apply the age filter to bowling, I am guessing that the number of bowlers under 18 is not even close to 14 million. Actually, if you apply the age restriction to every "activity/sport" on the SGMA list, my hunch is that soccer would be second only to basketball.

posted by tselson at 03:39 PM on June 23, 2006

Quick questions, what are some alternative formations to the 5-4-1? Do additonal strikers come at the expense of mid fielders or defensemen?

posted by HATER 187 at 04:22 PM on June 23, 2006

There's nothing wrong with 4-5-1, as you can adjust the formation to 4-3-3 very easily by pushing up the wide midfield players to support the lone striker. What you do need with this system is a striker who can hold the ball up until support arrives - which patently Brian McBride is not, as his strengths are mainly in the air. As others have pointed out, when you need a win, you have to abandon the formation and put more strikers on. It's a risk, but if a loss or draw puts you out, why not try it? Australia put four attackers on the pitch against Croatia, going for the second equaliser. They got it and then had to play the last 10 minutes with players in some very strange positions!

posted by owlhouse at 04:50 PM on June 23, 2006

Regarding Arena, this released within the last hour: he was offered a "European job opportunity" that no longer was available. Imagine that.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 05:53 PM on June 23, 2006


posted by urall cloolis at 10:27 PM on June 23, 2006

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