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Bruce Arena Out as USA Head Coach

NEW YORK -- Bruce Arena experienced unprecedented success as coach of the United States men's soccer team, including 71 victories during his eight-year tenure and a quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup.

Now, three weeks after the Americans' disappointing first-round exit from the World Cup in Germany, Arena is out despite an apparent wish to return to the team.

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced Friday that Arena's contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the year.

"Bruce expressed a desire to continue," federation president Sunil Gulati said. "I'm sure he'll have opportunities. He had a great opportunity before the World Cup, but he didn't want to be distracted. No doubt there will be multiple opportunities in the soccer world in the U.S. and outside if he wants them."

Gulati didn't specify what opportunity Arena had, but the coach is likely to field a few calls.

He won more than twice as many games than any other U.S. coach and the team's run to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup was a highlight. But he'll leave after losses to the Czech Republic and Ghana and a draw with eventual champion Italy at this year's World Cup, failing to make it out of the first round last month.

"Eight years is a long period," said Gulati, who was elected president of the federation in March. "I'm not saying we need to change direction, the direction Bruce set is very positive. But having a fresh approach, after eight years, which is a very long time, is the strongest factor."

Arena did not return messages left at his home office and on his cell phone, but released a statement through the federation.

"I am proud of how far the organization has come over the last eight years, and I am extremely optimistic about the future of the sport in our country," Arena said. "As for me, I am planning to take some time off to weigh my future opportunities."

Gulati, who made his decision after meeting with federation general secretary Dan Flynn and Arena on Thursday at New York's LaGuardia airport, said a search for a new coach will begin immediately. The U.S. will play matches later this year and Arena would manage the team if his successor is not found by then, he said.

Several people have been mentioned as possible candidates, including Juergen Klinsmann, who resigned on Wednesday after guiding his native Germany to third place at the World Cup earlier this month.

Klinsmann has said he had no interest and had not been contacted by the U.S. federation, a statement confirmed by Gulati.

But Gulati specified the criteria that will decide the next U.S. coach, including "some knowledge of American soccer, experience, leadership, a track record of success."

"Does Juergen Klinsmann have those qualities? He probably does," Gulati said. "He's had success with the German team; he has a much better handle on American soccer scene than someone who hasn't spent time here; he's inquisitive. He's an intelligent guy, multilingual with a lot of very positive qualities."

Among the U.S. coaches thought to be possible candidates are Arena's assistant, Glenn "Mooch" Myernick, as well as Sigi Schmid of the Columbus Crew, Dave Sarachan of the Chicago Fire and Bob Bradley of Chivas USA.

"There's a lack of an obvious candidate, which means there could be a number of suitable candidates." Gulati said. "Clearly, it's not like eight years ago, where Bruce's track record at university and on the professional level was so extraordinary. We do not have that situation."

Before taking over as manager of the United States, Arena also won or shared five NCAA titles as coach of Virginia, won two Major League Soccer championships with D.C. United and also claimed the CONCACAF Champions Cup with D.C.

His 71-30-29 record with the U.S. national team easily surpasses Bora Milutinovic, who went 30-35-31 from 1991-1995.

"Bruce certainly left the program in much better position and gave us credibility," Gulati said. "The water-cooler talk is the greatest example of where we're getting as a soccer country. We joined the rest of world as a soccer country."
The US international team should have been improving in recent years, with or without the help of the coach. The bad performance at this World Cup just shows that the squad needs a new leader and new direction.
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