The United States national team has a new (old) head coach for a few weeks now as Bruce Arena has been charged with the task of leading the program to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And MLS commissioner Don Garber couldn’t be any happier.
At times Arena’s predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann, seemed ambivalent if not downright hostile to MLS, preferring to call in players from overseas rather than those performing well in the domestic league. Klinsmann took what were perceived to be some shots at MLS during his time with the national team, a duration that ended last month after the United States dropped World Cup qualifiers at home to Mexico and at Costa Rica.
In Arena, who was one of the first head coaches hired in MLS by D.C. United in 1996 during the league’s inaugural season, there is no greater advocate for the league. Arena coached United until 1998 when he took over the national team for the first time, leading them to the World Cup in 2002 and again in 2006. Then he took over the New York Red Bulls and eventually the Los Angeles Galaxy. He is considered the most successful head coach in league history.
Garber admitted to being excited to see Arena transition from the Galaxy back to the red, white and blue of the national team. Arena recently said that two-thirds of the player pool for the United States comes from MLS, something else that must excite Garber.
“I read that and I kind of smiled. I want our players to earn their right on the national team, I want our national team to do well, I want to qualify for Russia,” Garber said on Monday at an event at Montclair State University. “Bruce is the most successful soccer coach in North America. The fact that he’s built sort of his success, the college level but also in MLS and the national team, seems to me like he’s the perfect guy for the job.”
Garber, a resident of Montclair, became the first season ticket holder for the New York Red Bulls II, the USL offshoot of the New York Red Bulls. The franchise unveiled their new 3,500 capacity stadium at Montclair State University. The USL team will use the facility at Pittser Field as well as the nationally ranked men’s and women’s Red Hawks soccer programs, both of whom made the NCAA Division III Tournament this season.
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Garber hailed the investment by Red Bull which includes new seating that will eventually expand to 5,000 as well as locker room construction, which Sean Oliver, vice president of operations for the Red Bulls, said will begin in January.
The commissioner called the Red Bulls Academy “a clear vision to develop the game.”