I’ve read with some amusement the last few days the opinions of people I respect questioning the apparent decision by the LA Galaxy to hire Bruce Arena. From my vantage point after drifting along as simply a marketing entity and not a serious footballing side since the death of Doug Hamilton, no move can equal the potential hiring of Arena in signaling that the Galaxy are serious about competiting again in MLS. The Galaxy have become irrelevant from a footballing standpoint in MLS. No amount of David Beckham hype, ticket sales, or hubris from AEG can change that reality.
Bruce Arena understands MLS and the American player as well as anybody around. His tenures with Virginia, DC United and the US National Team speak for themselves. The weakness Arena had in his time leading US was his lack of interest in player development and the youth academy setup, but seeing that MLS has become a league less committed to developing its own talent and more interested in getting second tier players from abroad and recycling older American players, Arena’s unique understanding of the American game will make him the ideal choice. Whether it’s acquiring players within MLS, a weakness of former GM Alexi Lalas or motivating the current group of Galaxy players, Arena knows what he’s doing: He’s done it better than anyone in the history of football in the US. Arena has a better sense for American talent: who will pan out and who won’t than any manager in the history of the game here in the US. This is directly the opposite of Alexi Lalas who had some strange ideas as to the quality of certain players and seemed to be more of a marketing man despite his remarkable success as a player for the US National Team.
Arena’s time at Red Bull New York has many questioning his pedigree: They ought not to. In Los Angeles, unlike in New York Arena will find a back office staff and a management team who understand MLS and football not simply the marketing of energy drinks, and he will have the resources of AEG to back his vision for the club. Arena’s hiring will also signal that after allowing the Beckham/Lalas circus to run roughshod over footballing considerations for almost two years AEG and the Galaxy are getting back to basics.
The choice of Bruce Arena should be a no brainer for AEG. The hiring of a manager of Bruce Arena’s quality can also prevent a mass exodus of players from the Galaxy in the near future. Arena’s tactics are simple but will suit both David Beckham and Landon Donovan’s quality as well as being stronger at the back then what we have seen from the Galaxy recently. The quicker AEG closes the deal the sooner the Galaxy can return to the heights they enjoyed in the first decade of MLS’ existence.