US Soccer starts a new, yet somewhat familiar era with "new" coach Bruce Arena at the helm - yet again. Arena was the manager of the US men's national team for eight years from 1998 until 2006, when he was replaced by Bob Bradley.
Arena is without a doubt the most successful manager ever for the men's team, as he led the squad to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. That finish was the team's best finish since placing third in the 1930 World Cup. In those eight years his 75 wins are the most by any coach of the national team, and he parlayed that success into MLS by leading the LA Galaxy to the MLS Cup championship twice.
It seems that US Soccer is going back to what it knows with Arena. Jurgen Klinnsman didn't turn out to have the master touch that we had all hoped, and he certainly devalued the talent nurtured by the MLS, unabashedly preferring playing honing their craft in European leagues and certainly encouraging players to play outside the US. However Arena has come out and placed a priority on MLS players in his selections.
Friday's squad included zero players currently in foreign leagues, and the US ended up winning their friendly against Jamaica 1-0. While it may not be the best idea to totally scrap international talent, and I don't think Arena will, it may be to simply have fresh legs in camp. By using MLS players, he doesn't have to call in players from abroad and can use MLS players who are in their offseason. Additionally, it gives youngsters like Sounders forward Jordan Morris an opportunity. Morris was inexplicably left off of Klinnsman's roster for the Copa America tournament last summer.
However it would be foolish for Arena to never bring in or leave to the side someone the likes of Christian Pulisic. Pulisic could be the next Landon Donovan, and it may be wiser for the new staff to build around his talent rather than make him fit into a system comprised of lesser talent.
Word is is that Klinnsman never fully immersed himself into growing the men's program, largely neglecting developing the youth system and thus relying on bringing in dual citizens from Europe. With Arena the hope is that he is more hands on in prepping young talent for the next stage, and if Morris' inclusion is any indication, it's already high on his list.
Photo: Flickr/Erik Drost