Bruce Arena resigned as coach of the United States men’s national team on Friday, the first casualty of the team’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
U.S. Soccer announced Arena’s departure in a news release. U.S. Soccer’s president, Sunil Gulati, whose job performance — like Arena’s — has been assailed by fans and commentators in the days since the Americans’ embarrassing failure, addressed his own status in a conference call later Friday morning.
Like Arena had on Tuesday, Gulati said he “accepted full responsibility” for the team’s failure to qualify. But unlike Arena, Gulati said, somewhat incongruously with his acceptance of full blame, that he would stay on in his post.
“I do not plan to resign,” he said.
Arena was in his second tenure as United States coach; he previously led the team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. The first of those, a run to the quarterfinals in South Korea, was the modern high-water mark for the men’s national team program. In the second, in Germany in 2006, the Americans finished last in the field, which led to Arena’s first ouster as coach.
“It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s national team, and as I leave that role today, I am honored and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career,” Arena said in the news release.
“When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate. Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months, and in the end, we came up short. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.”
Arena’s departure was not a surprise. He was under contract only through next summer’s World Cup, and with hopes of reaching that goal dashed, there was little reason for him to stay on.
U.S. Soccer did not name a replacement.
Arena was 81-32-35 over all in his two tenures with the national team. After taking over for the fired Jurgen Klinsmann when the United States lost its first two games in the final round of qualifying, he posted a 10-2-6 record.
But the United States won only three of the eight qualifiers Arena coached, including only one of its final four. Its 2-1 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, combined with results in two other regional games played simultaneously, sealed the team’s fate.
The failure to qualify ended a run of seven consecutive appearances in the World Cup by the Americans that dated to 1990.