In November 2016, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as head coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, this after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in World Cup qualifiers. The national team turned to a familiar face in Bruce Arena, who previously served as manager from 1998-2006.
“Bruce is fantastic,” U.S. men’s national team member and Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He’s obviously been through this numerous times. He’s been the head coach of the national team for a number of years. He’s been arguably one of the most successful national team managers in the program’s history. So his results speak for themselves.”
The men’s team experienced mixed results under Klinsmann, who led the United States to a CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013 and the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann, however, struggled to sustain that success.
McCarty is confident that Arena can provide a steady presence for the program.
“The best part about Bruce is he’s a boss who gets the most out of his players,” McCarty said. “He knows what he wants, he’s very direct, he knows exactly what players he wants in what positions, and he puts out a clear game plan for how you’re going to attack and defend against an opponent, and then he leaves it up to the players to execute. So Bruce is an old-school coach. He’s a players’ coach. He’s a guy that’s a great motivator, and he’s a guy that gets the best out of his players. For me, it’s obviously been a pleasure. I actually have never played under him before until this January when I got called up. Being under him for the first time has been a pleasure. So any way I can help contribute to the team and anything Bruce asks of us, I know guys are willing and ready to step up and contribute.”
McCarty said that the vibe and mindset of the team is positive.
“I think that in general, players are more comfortable when they have confidence and when they’re playing at a high level in their favorite positions and the objectives are clear,” he said. “I unfortunately didn’t get called up too much under Jurgern. I only got called up one time under Jurgen, so I didn’t get a chance to really get to know him that well as a coach, so I can’t really speak to the atmosphere before Bruce came in. But I just know you see a lot of smiles around camp. You see a lot of laughter. You see a very relaxed mood, and it’s not relaxed in a sense that it’s casual because when it’s time to step up and do our jobs, it’s very serious.”
Arena, 65, is also a proponent of giving players down time to relax and decompress.
“I think that keeps guys really loose and really light,” McCarty said. “I think that makes guys’ heads clear – and when guys go into games with their heads clear, fully focused on the task at hand – I think you get the best performances out of players. I think Bruce is really good at that.”