Analysis

Staffing up, connecting with players, and the rest of Bruce Arena's USMNT to-do list

While you wrap and open gifts, Bruce Arena will be remaking a national soccer team. Steve Davis on what the next two months should have in store for the new USMNT boss:

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We’re all busy during the holidays, but isn’t it safe to assume Bruce Arena will be busier than the rest of us?

Can we at least agree that the once-and-future U.S. men’s national team manager’s current project is more important than what the rest of us muggles have going? Especially if you care about soccer, your national team, World Cups and that sort of thing. In that case, yeah, Arena’s days and nights ahead are crucial as he gets into the nitty-gritty of this new-but-familiar gig, sketching a plan to correct the skid and get the car wheels back on the road.

So what will his next six weeks look like? We’re thinking the man’s to-do list looks something like this:

1. Watch and re-watch every match from the past year

"The performances he reviews won’t mean everything, but they mean something."

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously Arena has seen many of these matches, wincing along with the rest of us at quite a few of them; but there’s watching matches and then there is studying them.

As to “how far back,” a definitive timetable is important here. That is, Arena doesn’t need to retreat too far in the archives. Why should he? Let’s take John Brooks as a “for instance.” The John Brooks of today – and let’s mercifully eliminate his night of folly, farce and “fall over” in Costa Rica, because that is hopefully an outlier – looks different than the lesser experienced 2015 Gold Cup version.

And it works the other way, too, with players once in form now straying out of it. Why go back to look at Matt Besler in 2014, for instance, when that version of the once-dependable Kansas City center back seems a bit off in the woods? That isn’t to say Arena needs to “X” Besler off all lists. He doesn’t. It’s just to say that the new manager needs to know – probably already does know – what Besler can bring to the table right now.

So, yeah … watch the games with a critical eye. The performances he reviews won’t mean everything, but they mean something.

NEXT Filling out the ranks

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