- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

If anyone can save the Major League Soccer franchise in America’s biggest market, it has to be Bruce Arena, who was named coach of the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday.

Formerly the MetroStars, until the Austrian energy drink company Red Bull took over the club in March, the franchise has lacked stability throughout its 11-year history. Arena, 54, who has had success at the college, pro and international levels, will be the team’s 10th coach when he takes over next month.

Coaching the Americans at the World Cup is nothing compared to his new job. A number of big-name coaches have tried their luck at the team and failed — notably Carlos Queiroz, now the assistant coach at Manchester United; Brazil’s 1994 World Cup coach Carlos Alberto Parreira; and the well-traveled Bora Milutinovic. The league has spent plenty of money on many star players for the franchise, such as Roberto Donadoni, Branco (three red cards in 11 games), Lothar Matthaus, Youri Djorkaeff and Amado Guevara, but the team has never reached the MLS Cup.

This season the Red Bulls have managed just four wins in 18 games, including Wednesday’s upset at Columbus, perhaps giving them hope.

Arena led D.C. United to two MLS titles by building his team around talented midfielder Marco Etcheverry. It will be interesting to see whether Arena can get the best out of creative Red Bulls midfielder Guevara, a player similar to Etcheverry who has had an unsettled time with the team.

“Amado’s one of the top midfielders in the league,” Arena said. “I’m happy to have a player like Amado.”

Arena will have total control of the club’s player moves and one rumor has him being joined by John Harkes, D.C. United’s director of youth development and a former star with the team.

And if Arena can succeed, the league and American soccer would benefit from having a winner in New York.

Klinsmann’s the right man — Juergen Klinsmann, who lives with his American wife, Debbie Chin, in Huntington Beach, Calif., is the ideal candidate to replace Arena as coach of the U.S. team.

The former German striker understands American culture and has embraced American sports methods when it comes to nutrition and specialized training. He took a struggling, moderately talented and young German squad all the way to the semifinals of the World Cup with a fast-paced, attacking style of soccer.

And Germany probably was the fittest team at the finals. Klinsmann recruited American fitness coaches and sports specialists and made the German team faster by giving individual training programs to his players. His ideas were criticized by some in Germany at first but he won over his critics. Don’t be surprised to see the big European clubs come seeking advice from Americans on modern sports methods in the near future.

From a distance — Every season it has been rare for D.C. United to score goals from outside the 18-yard box. Etcheverry couldn’t refuse the opportunity to dribble around a defender when many times he should have shot. Through the years, United strikers Steve Rammel, Raul Diaz Arce, Roy Wegerle, Roy Lassiter and to some extent Jaime Moreno have been inside the 18-yard box strikers. Now, however, United is knocking them in from a distance at will. The team has notched nine goals from shots outside the box this season, with midfielder Brian Caroll’s latest last Saturday’s 3-2 win over Columbus being voted the MLS Goal of the Week.

Gansler is fired — The week after U.S. soccer decided not to renew Arena’s contract, the Kansas City Wizards fired veteran coach Bob Gansler on Wednesday. Lest it be forgotten, Gansler was the man who coached the U.S. team to the 1990 World Cup in Italy after the team’s 40-year absence from the event.

The Americans lost all three games in Italy, and Gansler was unfairly ridiculed for the performance and then pretty much forgotten until he took on the Wizards job in 1999. The following year, Gansler led the Wizards to the MLS title.

Known for his defensive style, Gansler also led the Wizards back to the final, where they lost 3-2 to United in 2004. His influence lives on in the work of Maryland’s talented coach, Sasho Cirovski, a student of Gansler’s coaching and someone who always defended Gansler in his days in the wilderness. Gansler always has been the perfect gentleman.

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