The hiring of Bruce Arena last week to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach of the United States men’s national team was a step forward in every which way. Klinsmann seemed to be a head coach who was never really a fit or the right choice for the team.
And now with a legendary MLS coach tasked to resurrect the ship, something he can easily do as the squad gears up to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, it is clear that the 65-year old Arena is not a long-term solution for the Americans. That man is here in New York with the Red Bulls.
In what will be his second-term with the national team, Arena is a bit of a stop-gap hire. He has the credentials from the 2002 World Cup and the run to the quarterfinals to get this locker room to wake up and listen. He also has had unprecedented success with the Los Angeles Galaxy in recent years, where he has managed egos and developed young talent. He’ll have to do both with a national team that seems to be a mish-mash of talent. Arena was a home run hire and the right choice for the here and now.
But come the 2022 World Cup, Arena will be pushing 71-years old, not ancient but perhaps not a good fit for the national team moving forward. His successor is likely in MLS right now. Arena really has this cycle and the 2018 World Cup as his realistic tenure meaning that he has two years at the post.
His successor is right here in Jesse Marsch.
In two years with the Red Bulls, Marsch has worked seamlessly with a roster that has one of the lowest payrolls in the league and yet he has maximized results. He has two Eastern Conference regular season titles and a Supporters’ Shield during his tenure at Red Bull Arena, showing tremendous consistency during those two seasons. There is also the fact that he navigated the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, something that this franchise has never done.
And while playoff success has been lacking, he’s been willing to develop young players into the lineup, using a Starting XI that features a number of Americans and CONCACAF players.
Couple that with his years under Bob Bradley as a national team assistant, and Marsch is the logical choice to eventually replace Arena. Especially if he continues this trajectory as one of the best, if not the best, coach in MLS.
Were he ever appointed to the post, Marsch would be the first head coach of the national team who played in MLS, giving him a fascinating insight into player development, but also a keen appreciation for a league that is the backbone of MLS (something Klinsmann, who took pot shots at the league, failed to grasp). He also has a built-in knowledge of the region from his time with Bradley as well as the CONCACAF Champions League, knowledge that can help guide a national team through the rigors of away qualification. Something that Klinsmann never seemed to understand.
And while he isn’t necessarily fluent, he does have a grasp of Spanish, another built-in advantage that can help in qualification. Although his Spanish needs well, mucho trabajo, the framework is certainly a positive for communicating with officials.
A tactician who, along with sporting director Ali Curtis is at the forefront of analytics in this country, his acumen for breaking down film makes him a modern coach in every meaning of the word. While he needs to continue to develop and grow as a head coach, the call to the national team shouldn’t be far off for Marsch.