Admitting that “we didn’t get the job done,” Bruce Arena on Friday resigned from his position as United States manager following the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The U.S. finished fifth in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal table after losing 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago on the region’s final matchday as both Honduras and Panama moved ahead of the Americans in the standings and left the team out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
“It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s National Team, and as I leave that role today I am honored and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career,” Arena, 66, said in a statement.
“When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate. Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months, and in the end we came up short.
“No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility. This certainly is a major setback for the senior Men’s National Team program, and questions rightly should be asked about how we can improve. No doubt this process already has started and will continue so that U.S. Soccer can progress.
“Having said that, it also is important to recognize the tremendous growth and accomplishments we have achieved over the past two decades in all areas, including player development, coaching education and a stable domestic professional league. That work is ongoing, and despite the result in Trinidad the sport is on the right path. By working together, I am confident soccer in this country will continue to grow in the years and decades ahead. Obviously the biggest disappointment is for our fans.
“As a person involved in the sport for more than 40 years, to see how the level of support for soccer in the United States has grown is incredibly gratifying. I believe I speak for everyone involved in the game in thanking all of you for your passion and commitment, and I hope you maintain your steadfast support of U.S. Soccer.
“While this is a difficult moment, I maintain a fierce belief that we are heading in the right direction. I believe in the American player and the American coach, and with our combined efforts the future remains bright.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I can say this from the bottom of my heart: from the high of reaching the Quarterfinal of the 2002 World Cup to the low of a few days ago, I have appreciated every minute of being a part of this program.”
Arena took over the reins of the national team for the second time in his career on Nov. 22, 2016, after U.S. Soccer parted ways with his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann.
The U.S. had lost its first two Hex qualifiers to start the campaign under Klinsmann — at home to Mexico and away to Costa Rica — before Arena was brought in to right the ship and ensure qualification for Russia 2018.
Needing just a single point to qualify on Tuesday, the U.S. was beaten in Trinidad — while Honduras beat Mexico and Panama scored a last-gasp winner against Costa Rica — and Arena accepted responsibility for the loss after the match, while saying that he and the team had failed.
The former LA Galaxy manager oversaw the team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, leading the U.S. to its best-ever finish at the former before losing to Germany in the quarterfinals.
Arena departs with an all-time record of 81-32-35. After picking up the reins following the first two losses in the final round of qualifying, he collected a 10-2-6 record in 2017.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee remains the winningest coach in U.S. Soccer history.
With the victory in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Arena is the only head coach to claim the Gold Cup title on three occasions, previously guiding the USA to crowns in 2002 and 2005.