Bruce Arena, whose second stint as the U.S. Men’s National Team soccer coach began with an unprecedented 14-game unbeaten streak and ended in disappointment, resigned from his position on Friday.
Arena’s resignation came in the wake of Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1986.
“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,” Arena said in a statement released before a scheduled media teleconference call with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. “No doubt this process already has started and will continue so that U.S. Soccer can progress.”
Arena began his second stint as head coach of the men’s national team on Nov. 22, 2016 when he replaced Jürgen Klinsmann, who was fired after two straight losses to begin the fifth and final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 loss in Costa Rica.
Arena, who led the U.S. to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup but failed to reach the knockout round in 2006, had the U.S. off to a record-setting 9-0-5 start this season before a shocking 2-0 loss to Costa Rica on Sept. 1, and the 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10.
Arena finished his second tenure 10-2-6 after going 75-28-27 as men’s national team coach from Aug. 1, 1998 through July 14, 2006.
“Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months and, in the end, we came up short,” Arena said. “No excuses. We didn't get the job done, and I accept responsibility.”
During the conference call with the media, Gulati also shouldered some of the blame.
“Obviously the end of the qualifying campaign on Tuesday was very disappointing to all of us,” said Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer for the last 12 years. “It’s a shock to the system. We fully expected to qualify going into the game on Tuesday … I certainly take responsibility for us not getting the job done and getting to Russia.”
Gulati declined to announce whether he would run for another term as president in February. He said the most pressing issue is naming a short-term coach for the men’s two upcoming friendlies in November. He stressed that the decision for a long-term coach will be a separate process with a longer timetable.
He also said the lack of World Cup qualification is forcing a re-examination from internal and external points of view on everything on the technical side, from player development to coaching, refereeing and the “pay-to-play” model for the men’s side, and to a lesser degree on the highly successful women’s side.
Gulati expects the U.S. men to have a full calendar of games in 2018 other than the World Cup. He said the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup is due in the spring, and he expects to aid in that effort.