Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena talks David Beckham and Landon Donovan in this interview with beIN SPORT's Frank Dell'Apa.
Bruce Arena's triumphs have spanned the 17-year history of MLS. Arena coached D.C. United to the 1996 and ’97 MLS Cup titles and the Los Angeles Galaxy to the 2011 and ’12 championships, taking time to lead the U.S. in two World Cups, including a quarterfinal berth in 2002.
In this interview with beIN SPORT’s Frank Dell’Apa during the MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,, Arena talks about the Galaxy’s plans for replacing David Beckham, the progress of the league, and the as-yet-undetermined status of Landon Donovan.
FD: Life after David Beckham?
Bruce Arena: That was inevitable and we were fully prepared for the day he leaves. And we’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to re-sign Juninho, so we’ll have him back and (Marcelo) Sarvas and (Mike) Magee back in the midfield. And we need to get another player there and we’re working on it, as well, and there’s a chance we’ll get a designated player that can slip into midfield, as well.
FD: Frank Lampard?
BA: I’m not going to comment on who it is.
BA: He’s not on the radar for us.
FD: You won the first MLS Cup in 1996. How different is it winning it now.
BA: It’s always nice to win. Every year is different, so certainly a big difference between ’96 and this year. The league has changed. It’s rewarding to be able to do things like that. I think we have such a good organization in L.A., it’s certainly made winning championships a possibility.
FD: Some of the biggest changes in MLS since ‘96?
BA: Just from a fixed-asset part of it – the stadiums – just a major difference from the start of the league, and now we have great stadiums to play in. I think the entry level in the league is much-improved, the America player is much-improved than he was in ’96. Maybe we don’t have those top international players we had in the early going. We have a good nucleus of international players that make the roster stronger and better and that will continue. We obviously have a long way to go, but we’re making progress. The biggest thing I can preach is just patience. It’s not going to happen overnight that we’re going to have a league that‘s in the top leagues in the world – it’s going to take time.
FD: Evaluate yourself – your teams play really good soccer and you’ve set a standard.
BA: I think you have a philosophy and you sort of stick with it, the way you feel the game should be played and, obviously, with better players you can do that. End of the day, good players help you win games and I’ve been fortunate to have good players.
FD: You have to be able to manage them, though?
BA: That’s all part of it, you have to do that, it goes with the territory. I’m not discounting what I do, but it’s the right balance. You need to manage them the right way, you have to put the right kind of players on the field –
not only their ability but their mentality.
FD: You’ve done that from Day 1.
BA: Yeah, that’s what the job is, that’s what we all try to do.
FD: Everybody wants to play a nice game and have the same type of philosophy. How are you able to make it work?
BA: I’ve been doing this long enough, I have enough experience. I’ve been able to win at every level, so I think I have a good feel. A lot of it is coaching feel and after X number of years it’s second nature. It’s something you can’t teach anyone, it’s hard to articulate what you have a feel for. But I think I’ve been in this business for 30-35 years, I kind of understand how to do it all.
FD: So, there are intangibles?
BA: It comes from success and tasting success and tasting failure and learning from those two things. Often, when I face different challenges, having the experience that I can fall back on and help me make a better decision.
FD: What coaches influenced you? There weren’t many successful American soccer coaches in the past.
BA: I think the sports environment in the U.S. is the best in the world and coaching is coaching. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re coaching. In L.A. I’ve had the opportunity to watch Phil Jackson work. You know that, to me, is as good as watching Jose Mourinho, if you’re in Madrid. Joe Torre, baseball. You know, we see all of that, I’ve learned from that. Coaching is coaching. You know, we get to see how some of the top athletes and coaches work in our country. We don’t realize that. We don’t need to be in Europe watching Alex Ferguson every day and Jose Mourinho. We have it all here. People just don’t recognize it.
FD: Landon Donovan?
BA: As we get closer to reporting date we’re going to finalize where he’s headed this year.
FD: Sounds optimistic?
BA: You never know with Landon, so we’ll see.