Bruce Arena's "Three phases of preperation"

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by jeff_adams, Aug 4, 2002.

  1. jeff_adams

    jeff_adams Member+

    Dec 16, 1999
    Monterey, Ca
    Since it looks likely that Coach Arena will stay on, I thought we could discuss his future decisions for the National Team.

    All great coaches must coach in three distinct areas of preperation simultanously.

    Present

    Near future

    Distant future

    If a coach doesn't keep all these areas in mind, then the team will struggle at some point. Being able to juggle all three is the hallmark of a championship quality coach.

    Present:

    After such a "uplifting" result, you have to agree that the current squad has a nice blend of veterans and youth. Size is an issue, and the outside wingbacks need to be upgraded. Arena is blessed with good speed in some key positions. What I suspect he'll focus on now is sharpening our counter attacking skills and work on breaking down bunker defenses.

    Near future:

    Younger defenders are a high priority. It has become clear that the USA is developing exciting offensive talent, but the defenders are a concern at the international level. Arena needs to have a system in place to prepare those defenders he has identified as future candidates for National duty. They need to be added to the mix of veterans at some point and trusted to develop. A playmaker is also needed. Donovan might be that player, but his style doesn't fit with the "traditional" tactics that Arena employs.

    Distant future:

    Arena needs to develop a consistant "standard" by which all players joining the national team will understand and be prepared for. Youth coaches need to use the same "methods" of preperation in order to insure easy "adjustment" to the next level. Ajax youth programs do this with great success. By having standardized fitness tests, it's easy to bring players in and see if they are "up to the standard". Using simular vocabulary and structure with allow easier transitition for players to make the jump to the senior level.

    Arena needs to develop a younger true "target forward", but at the same time look into using "slashers" for certain teams. Wedding yourself to absolute tactics can be disasterous....
     
  2. Go2NY

    Go2NY New Member

    Feb 19, 2000
    Croton-on-Hudson NY
    the other 3 phases

    Phase 1

    Beat a team like Poland - Poland in 02 was composed of nothing more than a decent middle table Bundeslige 1 team - we should have beaten them at least 1-0

    Phase 2

    Korea gave us a free pass by beating Portugal, who had beaten Holland and tied Ireland in the qualifyers. We didn't create our own advance.

    We need to beat a team like Portugal again, and we won't have the element of surprise, and they wont have been ground down by a hellishly long season.

    Phase 3

    We'll be up against a team like Italy, Germany or Argentina to advance into quarters, or semis.

    We need serious development - per jeff adams plan - and much , much more...

    Right now we have six players who can develop into these requirments. of course -

    We have a deserved 750k coach however, who can actually pull it off....

    Go USA
     
  3. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer New Member

    Sep 3, 1999
    I think we would have beaten Poland had we not got that first goal by Donovan called back so to me the Poland game doesn't really mean much to me. We were basically the only team to not lose to Korea other than Germany, the WC finalists.

    Jeff, I'm with you on this one. All three areas have to be balanced but I think now that the USSF realizes that friendlies are just experimentation games. The only thing that really matters is that we qualify and then do well at the WC.

    If you look at who Arena called up for the Australia friendly in '99, you can see that he basically evaluated players at that point and decided which ones had a very high likelihood of helping the team in 2001 etc. I'd watch this friendly in the late fall with a careful eye--as many as 6-8 players are likely to make it to 2006.
     
  4. Elninho

    Elninho Member+

    Oct 30, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    Club:
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I would also dismiss the Poland match. First - on Poland's second goal, three of our players were upfield arguing with the ref. Admittedly unprofessional behavior, but our goal shouldn't have been called off! Second Poland was already close to folding, and had the goal not been called back, I suspect that, instead of us down 2-0 and reeling, we would have just poured cold water on Poland's early momentum and proceeded to rout them.

    (As it was, the loss was not a bad thing - it put us in a good matchup vs. Mexico, who we had beaten in four of five matches, as opposed to a difficult match against Italy.)
     
  5. Minnman

    Minnman Member+

    Feb 11, 2000
    Columbus, OH, USA
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    In a lot of ways, this mimics Bruce's oft-stated approach during the past 3.5 year cycle:

    - Get through the first round of Quals.
    - Finish in the top 3 in the second round of Quals.
    - Have the team peaking for thre World Cup.

    Call them short, medium and long-term goals.

    Only this time Bruce starts with a solid foundation and a great track record on which to build. Back in '98 he needed to re-build everything from the ground up.
     
  6. Go2NY

    Go2NY New Member

    Feb 19, 2000
    Croton-on-Hudson NY
    Not so fast on minimizing the Poland loss

    I believe, I have no evidence, Bruce was 'seriously annoyed'

    Having goals removed by referees is not uncommon - It has happened before - you fight back.

    Having a quick goal scored against you, knowing you have at least one defended who isn't up to international speed - i spart of the plan - you fight back

    Being intimidated by a team basically no more than a decent mid table Bundesliga team - is in my view not acceptable.

    Elninho and Wanderer you are very generous and have many sound insights - but you can't dismiss our dismall performance v. Poland.

    To coach my team, you'll have to 'tighten-up'
     
  7. nobody

    nobody Member+

    Jun 20, 2000
    I particularly agree with the need to develop young defensive players, and fully expect Bruce to use any upcomming friendlies to start getting guys into the mix back there. Up front and in midfield, we are in better shape for the long haul, although guys like Twellman who are performing will absolutely get shots to make an impact.

    However, I do have to disagree with one point, specifically:

    "Arena needs to develop a consistant "standard" by which all players joining the national team will understand and be prepared for. Youth coaches need to use the same "methods" of preperation in order to insure easy "adjustment" to the next level. Ajax youth programs do this with great success. By having standardized fitness tests, it's easy to bring players in and see if they are "up to the standard". Using simular vocabulary and structure with allow easier transitition for players to make the jump to the senior level."

    I just don't see how this is possible, or even desirable. We are a big country. One of our potential strengths is in our diversity as a nation. We can draw upon a wide variety of backgrounds to select players who have vastly differing skills. If we try to set up some sort of assembly-line, we limit this potential. Also, we make it increasingly difficult for players outside the mandated youth sides that use the prescribed methodology to get into the program regardless of talent.

    For better or worse, players will be primarily developed by their pro clubs, all of which will play different styles. It is important to allow access to players who have developed under a variety of coaches since this will be the reality of selecting the team. This will only become a bigger issue in the future as US players gain standing and play larger roles in more teams around the world.

    In short, if through nothing but necessity, we need to continue to drift away from our old national team as club and player development organization to the new reality of our national team which increasingly relies on players and their professional clubs to ensure each player's personal development.
     
  8. cjaldrich

    cjaldrich New Member

    Jan 7, 2001
    Dayton, OH
    This will be the toughest to pull off given (1) the lack of professional developmental in the US, a la Ajax; and (2) the bredth and diversity of youth soccer.

    It sounds as if MLS is working to make in-roads; see Garber's State of League. A solid youth developmental system benefits everyone (MLS, Nats, kids), but it'll be difficult to pull off. The US is a big country, with a variety of youth programs. It'll be hard to find the gems in the rough. European nations, with their smaller size have a practical advantage here.

    The key will be a developmental system rooted at the club level. A national program cannot cover everything without breaking the bank. A club-based system, motivated by the profit to be made in finding and developing youth talent, is the best hope. Single Entity will make this interesting for a while; clubs must not fear losing home-grown talent to the league player pool.

    A solid domestic, club-based developmental program added to the increased opportunities among established European clubs is the only way for Phase III to happen.
     
  9. DAKCrew

    DAKCrew New Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    I dont think we should dismiss the Poland game. Even the best teams in the world know they are gonna win some and lose some. The Nats should study the Poland game learn how not to self destruct when you are down early
     
  10. Red Card

    Red Card Member

    Mar 3, 1999
    Club:
    New York Red Bulls
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You forgot to mention Arena's best preparation method: Making deals with the devil to be lucky at the right time. From the almost own goal by Llamosa vs Barbados in the last match of the semi-final qualifiers that hit the crossbar and fell into Meola's arms, to subs coming through against Mexico in Columbus, to Mathis and JOB's hand balls, to the grouping in Korea, to the missed goal that 9 man Portugal bounced off the post vs Korea in the closing minutes, Arena has been lucky enough to balance off the unlucky incidents.
     
  11. NoSix

    NoSix Member+

    Feb 18, 2002
    Phoenix
    Get over it already!

    Wanderer, Elninho,

    Donovan's "goal" was clearly a foul. The ball was still in the air above the Polish player's head when Donovan plowed into him. You have to play the ball, not the man. Whether the Polish player flopped or not is totally irrelevant. The ref made the right call. The US came out flat and lost the game in the first five minutes - they need to learn from that experience and move on...
     
  12. jeff_adams

    jeff_adams Member+

    Dec 16, 1999
    Monterey, Ca
    Nobody,

    I was referring to players "rising" through the ranks of the National Team programs. Obviously, club teams will have their own agendas. If the U-17 coach, the U-20, U-21, ect all use the same vocabulary and fitness standards, then Arena's job is easier when they make it to the senior squad. I'm not saying the coaches should be robots, just keep a consistency of training.

    Bruce Arena has so little time in training with his players. Because of their professional commitments, he needs the team to understand certain things.


    If he has to take away tactical training time to work on basic fitness and teach technical language to the players, then preparation suffers.

    If they've "been in the program", he shouldn't have to spend much time reviewing those areas. He'll always have some players who don't make youth teams, but bloom late and make the National Team. They will have to learn, but it's easier if it's only a few instead of most of the team....
     
  13. nobody

    nobody Member+

    Jun 20, 2000
    Those are exactly the reasons I don't see this strategy as necessarily a good thing, especially long term. I think we already rely too heavily at time on promoting from within the system of youth teams and all. Keeping things more structured and increasing the flow from one team to another helps the players already in the system, but makes it harder for other to break in. Sure, we'd still have good players that way and all. I just think that we're better off making the system more open since it seems unreasonable to think we made all the right player choices when the kids are 14 or 15 and we can just ride the same guys throughout.

    Sure, players need to have some common understandings, but if we can't count on professional athletes to have a decent level of fitness and tactical understanding, then we are in grave trouble regardless of what we do with them once they arrive.

    And really, soccer is not that complicated that anyone needs to teach players reams and reams of "technical" language. Guys like Pablo, to use an example, came in and picked things up just fine from his experience as a professional player which ensured he was fit and capable both technically and tactically. The days when there was no place outside the national team for top US players to learn the game and prepare physically are virtually over now.
     
  14. MarioKempes

    MarioKempes Member+

    Real Madrid, DC United
    Aug 3, 2000
    Raleigh, NC
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    Re: Get over it already!

    I dunno about that. Every contact is not a foul. This is not basketball. I don't have a tape, but my first impression was that the Polish player dived. The contact was minimal. I'm not sure about the intent.

    Anyway, allowing Poland that second goal was an extreme embarrassment, and one that Bruce Arena should never let happen again.
     
  15. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Well what about the incredible string of injuries in qualifying, the BS call on Donovan that took away a goal against Poland (all Donovan did was hold position), Agoos' unlucky own goal deflection and the non-call against Germany. To me it is -- and pardon the hyperbole but I think it is necessary for this hypothesis -- the height of absurdity to claim that Arena was lucky overall. He had some luck -- like everyone -- but the best one could do is argue that Arena had as much good as bad luck. Arena deserved the sucess he had, though a couple of unlucky breaks at critical times could have denied him that sucess.
     
  16. NoSix

    NoSix Member+

    Feb 18, 2002
    Phoenix
    Re: Re: Get over it already!

    Like everybody else, watching the game live I was screaming obscenities at the TV over how anyone could make such a BS call. But I DO have a tape, and it's quite clear on the replay that it was a foul and the call was the right one.
     
  17. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    Luck - Preparation meets opportunity.

    1. "Lucky" occurences for MNT in 2002 WC.
    2. Chris Armas goes down (I know I will take endless flack for this one). By this, I don't mean that Chris going down meant that the US could succeed. What I mean is that Arena was forced to look at other options, and those options worked. But we cannot disregard the choices Arena made in contingency planning in the event Armas DID go down. By selecting Mastroeni, who hadn't played in any qualifiers, Bruce prepared, and Pablo rose to the challenge. For the record, I think, as I said prior to the Poland match, that Armas would have been a difference maker in that game. For that game alone, I wish Armas would have been available. I don't believe Armas would have made as much of an impact as did Mastroeni and John Obrien in other games. When we truly dominated, and when we won, those two comprised our central midfield. Preparation met opportunity.
    3. Agoos was injured - When Jeff went down, the opportunity to shift to a 3-5-2 presented itself, and the US team responded with much better defensive and all-around performances. However, you don't make a change like that unless the team has been prepared. Arena prepared his team, they seized the opportunity. If Jeff had continued through the tournament, I think we would have continued to see many of the defensive vulnerabilities we had seen in earlier games. Because Agoos was injured, Arena was "lucky" to not have to make a tough decision in benching one of "his" guys.
    4. Reyna went down - call me crazy, but I don't think we would have seen a similar performance to the one we saw against Portugal with Claudio on the field. In that game, JOB and Mastroeni, who contributed to each of the goals, were the right choices. If Reyna hadn't gone down to injury, no doubt he was on the field, and the team and makeup of the game completely changes. Bruce had prepared a successful contingency, and it worked beautifully.
    5. Keller went down - Kasey's injury bailed Bruce out of an incredibly tough decision of choosing between two world-class keepers. Friedel played a great tournament, and Bruce was relieved of most of the second-guessing that would have inevitably transpired no matter which keeper he chose.[/list=1]

      There were other "lucky" instances for Arena, but one common thread underlies all of them. Arena had his team prepared from the first to the last man. When one went down, another stepped in, and each seized their opportunity in the spot light. The same could not be said of many, many other International coaches in the last World Cup. I was, and to some degree will continue to be, an Arena critic. But in order to be a decent critic, you have to balance the positives when you are pointing out the negatives.

      In WC2002, Bruce's positive contributions completely overshadowed his shortcomings, and his "luck" had everything to do with good preparation, not randon circumstance.

      PS - If you don't believe that luck had a lot to do with Brazil's success this year, and EVERY champion's success in years past, you are missing one of the subtle beauties of World Cup competition and soccer in general.
     
  18. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    On to 3 phases of preparation. I really like this thread.

    Phase I - Present

    If you follow Arena's model, younger players will be phased into the program. I don't see a huge immediate turnover. Players like Chris Klein, Richard Mulrooney, Carlos Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Bobby Convey, and Greg Vanney have already begun to be brought into the team and have been taught Arena's system. Arena will continue to bring them into camp and groom them into the positions and roles he expects them to fill gradually, not immediately. To help them along, Arena will retain certain veteran players. Don't be surprised if Cobi Jones gets a few more call-ins. He'll be team-coaching potential right mids by example. The same is probably true of Tony Sanneh. Whether he can make another appearance is questionable, but I fully expect that if Arena has his eye on Klein as a right back, for example, Bruce will use Sanneh as a tutor to help Klein make that transition. I also imagine Chris Armas, Brian McBride, and Eddie Pope serving the same roles. Perhaps they can help in the long-term, but if not, they can definitely help now.

    Phase II - Near Future

    This is the truly interesting group. This group comprises those players who are on the cusp of National Team callups. They include Taylor Twellman, Conor Casey, Ryan Suarez, Santino Quaranta, and Nick Garcia, among others. These are the players who are making an impact in club play right now, and look to have potential on the MNT. When they are called into camp, if you follow Arena's patterns, there is a very good chance they will sit the bench entirely, or perhaps serve as late-game substitutes, for the first few games. Arena will use camps for two basic purposes. One, to look at them up close and personal to determine if they CAN make a contribution to the team. Two, to train those who he determines are ready on how his system works, and what he expects from each of his players.

    Phase III - Distant Future

    This group is the frustration group on Big Soccer. These are the Freddy Adu's that we spend so much time talking about, but who are at least a couple of years away from having a shot on the National Team. Call this the "Potential Group." This group of players will move into "Phase II" if they start to realize their potential. For a model of this group of players, take a close look at Arena's handling of Landon, Beasley, and Convey. They were brought into camp, introduced to the program, and eventually - NOT IMMEDIATELY - got their chance to make their mark. Some of these players will not realize their potential, and will be phased out of the MNT. To see how this might be done, look at how Arena handled Chris Albright.
     
  19. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I agree you don't win the world cup without luck and that being prepared to take advantage of such luck is what the big money coaches get paid to do.

    I disagree that BA was "lucky" in the sense that he had more good luck than bad during the process. For me, a quarterfinal appearance was about what the USMNT deserved, though it could have been the finals with a little more luck and it could have been three and out with a little less luck.
     
  20. Autogolazo

    Autogolazo BigSoccer Supporter

    Feb 19, 2000
    Bombay Beach, CA
    I'm surprised that, in mentioning the Poland game, you guys haven't stumbled across the obvious mental block the US has:

    Beat the teams you're supposed to beat!

    The Poland game was the only one in which we were favored (at the start of the game, not before the tourney, of course). Look how we played.

    We eeked through qualifying, limping past Guatemala in RFK and giving me a heart-attack by waiting so late in Barbados, getting tied 0-0 at home by Costa Rica (1st round), losing at home to Honduras, etc.

    Hell, even in the Gold Cup, we got by Canada only on penalties before taking it to a supposedly superior Costa Rican squad.

    This could and probably should be the topic for a whole thread, but I'd like to see some improvement mentally and motivationally against the "weaker" teams, where we aren't always depending upon the underdog tag to get us up for a match.
     
  21. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer New Member

    Sep 3, 1999
    Re: Get over it already!

    Well I'll conclude that the ref called it a foul and that we lost the game--I'm way over it. It was a poor call IMHO(Donovan played the ball so much that it ended up in the back of the net!) and you are 100% correct that we should not have given up the 2nd goal. But I would take the game as more of an anomaly than I would the norm when you consider our performance as a whole.

    Regarding Arena, I agree that he needs to be a tad more liberal in regards to his player selections. One of Mathis and Wolff should have been out there against Mexico in that game IMHO. But the Bruce does those kinds of things for a reason--to allow the player to get full comfortable at the international level and not have the pressure of expecting to perform making them nervous. Perhaps this is one of Arena's observations(and one of mine also) regarding American players--the psyche of many players is quite fragile.
     
  22. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: Get over it already!

    Load of crap. Maybe Wanderer was calling for Mathis to start, maybe not. I know for a fact that he, like almost every other poster in the world, did not call for Wolff to start. Arena's use of Wolff in the Mexico game is one reason he makes $500k a year and we are just Big Soccer rabble. Wanderer is a great coach with the gift of hindsight.
     
  23. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    Two excellent posts back-to-back, Nutmeg, and I've just taken the one sentence that to me most defines Arena's greatest talent. I have no idea how he does it but with the Nats and DCU he always gets his team to peak when it counts. Like clockwork.

    One factor in that timing though is that the "regular season" may look messy. Of Arena's three teams at DCU, only one even tied for the Supporter's Shield, yet we speak of the early days of MLS as being DCU's dynasty. Following DCU back then with the games every week one could sense when the team was off (besides looking at the scoreboard) and one could sense, over the course of three games or so, when the team was jelling, getting on another roll for the MLS Cup, the award that counts in MLS.

    Similarly with the Hex, he came in third with some really shaky performances thrown in. Arena's team did enough to get by the WCQ's, then peaked where it counted, the WC itself. Now there is a big difference in coaching DCU in the regular season and coaching the Nats in WCQ's: with the Nats, games mean more (fewer games) and the games are widely spaced and one doesn't have the team together in the intervening time. This was Arena's learning curve the last go-round and it will be most interesting to me what (if) he does anything different in his preparations. I think part of the excellent WC performance can be attributed to the team being together beforehand as it seems, based on his history, that Arena is a grade A-worldwide and in any sport- coach at preparing a team for a specific event. Might he have a month long camp say before the next Hex? Use Copa America in a similar way? We'll see.
     
  24. Red Star

    Red Star Member

    Jan 10, 2002
    Fayetteville, AR
    Re: Get over it already!

    A simple question to consider, if the roles had been reversed and the defender had won the ball as Donovan did would you have awarded a penalty kick?

    Just a thought.

    To return to the topic, I think that Bruce has essentially done every thing he can. Don't worry about luck, it tends to balance out, sometimes in the short run (dueling own goals in the Portugal game) and sometimes in the long run. Bruce gets the team well prepared which creates confidence. I don't know how much ability he has to effect the the third level of long term preparation defined in the first post.
     
  25. jeff_adams

    jeff_adams Member+

    Dec 16, 1999
    Monterey, Ca
    Hmmm......there's a post about Arena trying to help with Freddy Adu's citizenship. I would call that "long term preparation". It's unlikely that Bruce will still be around when Adu is ready for the USMNT, yet he considers it important. You have to think and prepare this way if the team is to continue playing good soccer.
     

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