Here’s something that will infuriate most US Soccer fans, Bruce Arena has a book coming out. The book, “What’s Wrong With US? A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline,” talks about what went wrong with the USMNT to not qualify for the 2018 World Cup (as if we didn’t already know). And, in typical Bruce Arena fashion, he seemed to blame everyone else but himself (which we could’ve assumed that).
The Washington Post got an advance copy and they revealed that there was a plan to fire previous manager Jurgen Klinsmann six months before they actually did. And if US Soccer had done that, they were set to put Arena in for the USMNT’s run in the Copa America Centenario as well as the start of the Hex. The reason Klinsmann kept his job was largely due to CEO Dan Flynn getting a heart transplant at the same time as this was going on.
The conversation never took place because of an urgent medical issue: Flynn needed to undergo a heart transplant. He had suffered from heart problems for many years, and his number had come up for a lifesaving transplant in Kansas City, Mo.
“So just after Sunil and Dan and I had a meeting to decide I’d be taking over the U.S. team, Dan got the call,” Arena wrote. The transplant was a success but Flynn faced months of recovery.
“I felt a little bad for Sunil,” Arena wrote. “He wanted to make a change and replace Klinsmann, but he was nervous about pulling the trigger. The timing was already going to be awkward, with Copa America [Centenario] coming up in June. Now Dan was gone for two months. It didn’t feel right to move ahead at that time. … Events had already been set in motion, though.”
Gulati said Tuesday night that he did not want to comment at this time. USSF and Galaxy spokesmen said their respective organizations didn’t want to comment.
I’m glad Dan Flynn had his heart transplant and he’s now feeling great. But this is a red flag that for something as serious as whether or not to fire the manager of the men’s team, only two people within US Soccer were a part of that decision. Granted, Flynn and Sunil Gulati were the two big people within US Soccer but the CEO position has always been a role that was separate from making on-pitch decisions. And now we’re seeing Flynn and Gulati discuss whether to fire Klinsmann, Gulati having second thoughts because Flynn had a heart transplant.
And by putting this decision on two people, where one person was out for a couple months, what would’ve happened if something happened to Gulati that forced him to be out. Obviously, as VP at the time, Carlos Cordeiro would have taken over some of Gulati’s duties, but until US Soccer puts out their side of the story, we’re left to think that Cordeiro had nothing to do with this.
We already know what happened. The USMNT made the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario and it wouldn’t have been time to fire Klinsmann at that point. But after struggling in World Cup Qualifying, Klinsmann was fired for Arena and while there was some improvement out of the team, the USMNT still didn’t qualify even though they only needed a draw against last place Trinidad & Tobago on the final day. Now, there is a new president in Cordeiro, and many unknowns until a new GM is hired for the men’s and women’s teams and until a new USMNT manager is hired.
There is probably more to Arena’s book than this but it seems like it’ll be a book that will have uncomfortable truths and stories that will make Arena look better because they came from Arena’s point of view. I’m not sure US Soccer fans will be thrilled to read this book. I haven’t watched a minute of the Trinidad & Tobago game since that night and I don’t really plan to because I don’t need to relive that. So despite this being about more than what happened over the past year, I think I’ll pass on this book.
But if you’re a masochist and want to give it a read, the book comes out June 12. Yes, two days before the start of the World Cup the USMNT didn’t get in. Perfect time for some summer reading.