116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Embracing Change

The end of the week was a bit bizarro, to say the least, with the Italian verdict, Bill Simmons becoming an overnight EPL fan, and ESPN.com and SI.com both running Jurgen Klinsmann as the main story on their front pages Saturday. I still say it's a fluke, but that's not what I came here to write about, anyway. My weekend partying has caused me to be a bit late to the party, and I also feel a bit obligated (never a good thing), but at last I have come to give my two cents on the big USA story of the weekend.

We here on 116th Street have always liked Bruce Arena. His opinionated style, enthusiasm for the U.S. game, and rapport with players helped carry U.S. soccer further than ever before. His work didn't just carry us to a World Cup quarterfinal; it established a foundation upon which to build for the future, gave us new sets of expectations, and made many observers care about the USA team. Because of Arena's success, the public now cares enough to call for his head.
We here on 116th Street didn't exactly do a happy dance when we heard Il Bruce wasn't coming back, but we certainly didn't disagree, either. Where in 2002 Bruce was brazen enough to start youngsters over more established players, in '06 he let Eddie Johnson languish, was reluctant to use Clint Dempsey and showed no faith in Brian Ching. His unending loyalty to Landon Donovan was rewarded with a no-show from the golden boy, and his once-maverick style gave way to a sense of caution that unfortunately infected the U.S. team. Plus, after eight years, it was time to move in a new direction.
But most of the Bruce memories are positive. Under Arena, we managed to defeat some of the world's best (Germany, Argentina), began to even out the score with Mexico, earned some begrudging respect in the international community and actually formed a pipeline of talented youngsters to help the team in the future. Sure, we still have a long way to go, but we're no longer playing seven-touch soccer (now we're at three-touch; our day of becoming a one-touch attacking team is just around the corner!). Who do we have to thank for that? Bruce Arena, of course.
So now, even though U.S. soccer is such a big deal that both ESPN and SI will put non-U.S. coach Klinsmann on their front pages (on a day when the Yankees and White Sox are squaring off, at that), we still have some work to do, such as finding a coach. We here on 116th Street are in absolute favor of Klinsmann, if only to change the attitude of the team and to develop a stylistic identity for the team (never really Arena's strong point). A faster, quicker, more organized U.S. team helps not only the national program but also MLS. Furthermore, Klinsmann's bold ideology will help shake many USA players out of their comfort zones (Donovan, for one, shouldn't wear the captain's armband for at least a year, until he earns it back). This deal should be a no-brainer, and we here on 116th Street (just like everybody else in the entire world) are pretty sure it's going to get done.


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