When you think of soccer in the United States, one man reigns supreme. Bruce Arena is simply the best coach in United States Men’s National Team history. On Monday, the current New England Revolution head coach touched upon the country’s latest failure.
For the third straight time, the United States Men’s soccer team will not be in the Olympics after being defeated by Honduras on Sunday night. The fact that the USMNT seems in the midst of an almost golden generation makes this defeat an even harder pill to swallow.
Among the players on the pitch who were left disappointed was Revolution center back Henry Kessler. It was Kessler’s third consecutive start of qualifying and the 22-year-old did rather well for himself. Fans saw Kessler look good on the ball and handle pressure well.
But Kessler wasn’t the only player for New England who had their Olympic dreams shattered. Tajon Buchanan and Canada were sent home by Mexico and won’t be headed to Tokyo.
Bruce Arena was asked about the performances of Buchanan and Kessler on Monday.
He said, “I think for each of them, I might have watched one complete game. For Tajon [Buchanan], the opening game [against El Salvador]. He obviously played well. Yesterday he had a difficult time. The Mexicans sent two or three players at him every time he touched the ball and he had a tough day, as did his team. Henry was pretty solid throughout. I was impressed with both of them, because it’s their first experiences at the international level. They both did well.”
But Arena was also asked specifically about the U.S. Soccer Federation by Tom Quinlan and it’s safe to say that he spoke his mind.
Arena said, “Well, this is my opinion. My opinion may not mean a hell of a lot to anybody. I think the sport in our country has become highly, highly political. Certainly there’s a financial aspect to it that’s often thought about first before the technical side of it. I think people that are decision makers for the sport in our county are more politicians than they are technical people, and therefore, when they make decisions or they hire people to make decisions, I don’t think they necessarily make the right decisions all the time, because they don’t have the experience in the game. I’ve been one to say for years that I think we need more people with experience in the game that are decision makers to help move the sport forward. There’s never a response to that, and I think that’s critically important.”
Arena would continue and touched upon the progress of MLS.
He said, “Having said all this, I think there’s been tough times for the sport, for U.S. Soccer. The pandemic was really difficult for U.S. Soccer. It was really difficult for our league. Having said all of that, as the smoke settles and we didn’t qualify for the Olympics, our league is still making progress. It’s making great progress. I’d like to see it continue to grow and perhaps have a little bit more emphasis as well on the American player, and give the American player a few more opportunities to grow. I think our league now is largely an international league, which is fair enough, but we want to still have opportunities to grow our young, elite players in our league. Hopefully, as we continue to move forward, we don’t forget that and we can continue to grow the way we’re growing and develop some of our young American players as well.”
So it’s clear that if the United States has some work to do if they want to be a true competitor in the international soccer landscape. That work starts from the top down.