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Op-Ed \ John Haydon

Waiting game continues for Arena fans.

By John Haydon
Special to SoccerTimes

(Monday, September 14, 1998) -- The waiting game continues for (Washington) D.C. United coach Bruce Arena, who remains one of the leading candidates to coach the U.S. national team.

Arena spoke recently with Bob Contiguglia, the new president of the United States Soccer Federation, which will name the new coach. "We were just discussing the possibilities of the job and really taking it one step at a time," Arena said. "I'm not actively pursuing U.S. Soccer."

Arena has strong support in the American soccer community, but USSF officials have talked in the past about hiring a coach with international experience. "There is support out there (for him)," Arena said. "And maybe in the end, it's something that makes sense. But my concern right now is D.C. United."

Since former national team coach Steve Sampson resigned in July, Arena and three others have been mentioned as candidates for the job. Former U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic is still under consideration, but Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz and nomadic Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira reportedly have fallen out of the picture. Neither has lived up to his reputation in recent years.

The USSF has been burned in the past by Queiroz, who turned down the job in 1995 and recently left his post six weeks early as a USSF consultant to coach the United Arab Emirates team.

Other than coaching Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title, Parreira's record isn't particularly impressive. He has coached three other World Cup teams during his career, going 0-7-1. Parreira was also the first coach at the 1998 World Cup to get fired when Saudi Arabia released him after two games.

Arena's supporters are worried that if the USSF was interested in hiring Arena, it would have already done so. Perhaps the USSF is still exploring other options. In the past few weeks, a number of big-name coaches have become available.

The most notable is Berti Vogts, who resigned this week as coach of the German national team after eight years. Experienced Scottish coach Kenny Daglish also is out of work after getting fired from Newcastle United, as well as Swiss coach Christian Gross, who was dumped by Tottenham Hotspur.

Although Arena has a brilliant track record, there is concern in some USSF quarters that he lacks tact. When Arena was last employed by the USSF as the U.S. Olympic team coach in 1996, he was never loath to air his criticism of the American soccer system. And his battles with Major League Soccer's brass have been well publicized.

One thing for certain: If Arena gets the job, he will be more of a friend to MLS than Sampson ever was. Asked what his manifesto would be if he got the job, Arena's reply was quick and to the point: "I think the future of U.S. Soccer lies in Major League Soccer. If we develop a strong domestic league, it will pay dividends to the national team."

John Haydon is soccer columnist for the Washington Times and can be e-mailed at haydon@twtmail.com.

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