January 23, 2017
Bruce Arena steals the show at the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony
By Michael Lewis
With so much on my plate since last Saturday, I've been doing doing a bit of catching up.
Better late than never, someone once said.
So, here's tying a few loose ends together.
U.S. national coach Bruce Arena certainly enjoyed a memorable week last week from his very first practice in his second tenure of the team to stealing the show at Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles.
"To be able to play for him was fun and aggravating at times," Galaxy president Chris Klein said at the ceremony.
Arena definitely had more fun than aggravation last Saturday night.
During the auction of several soccer memorabilla were offer, Arena was at his best. When the auctioneer, former Seattle Pacific head coach Cliff McGrath put up a soccer ball signed by the great Pele, Arena bid $500.
"500 from the man who is going to win the World Cup," McGrath said.
"Cliff, $450," Arena retorted.
And the crowd burst into laughter.
Arena won the ball and after a $500 winning bid bid on a Landon Donovan jersey, the U.S. national coach said, "I actually have five those."
Donovan then presented the shirt to Arena's wife, Phyllis, and hugged her as well.
"Thank you, guys," he said.
After training the next day, a reporter brought up Arena's spoils.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with the Landon Donovan jersey," he said. "I've got a few of those already. And I think someone's got my ball already. But it was all good, it was all for charity."
An homage to Landon
Perhaps Joe Machnik, a member of the Walt Chyzowych said it best about Donovan.
"Landon has done everything that can possibly be done on a soccer field," he said, rattling off the future National Soccer Hall of Famer's accomplishments. "He's the best player to ever play in MLS, U.S.
"We have in our midst a legend. the legend. The best player who ever played for U.S. Soccer. It's an honor to have him with us."
Arena remembered when he took a coaching course under Chyzowych so many years ago.
"I recall when i was a young coach in the late seventies and early eighties I went to coaching school and Walt was heading it with the national team," he said. "At the time he was very elluquient, passionate and brilliant in simply saying, 'We've got a problem here in America to solve. We're a big country, a lot of issues. We're huge geographically, time zones, cultures, all of this. We must grow this sport. We're going to have to do a lot of work. Ad one day we're going to have a great national team and develop great players.'
"I would tell you today that walt would check one of those boxes. We have a great player."
Donovan said he did some research about Chyzowych and was reminded of all of the work that had been done prior to him to allow him to become the player he was.
"I think back to the generation before me to Alexi [Lalas] and Cobi Jones, [Jeff] Agoos a little bit," he said. "I look at a lot of those guys with pride. Then there was a generation before that. And there was a generation before them and a generation before them. From what I read about everybody, a lot of that started with Walt. It makes me emotional and makes me appreciative of what I've been allowed to do. You need a platform. i am very grateful."
He then gave a little preview on what could be the next step of his soccer career.
"I always said I didn't want to coach," he said. "As I have gotten farther away, it has started to draw my passion is coaching ... So you will see that soon here. that is what is calling me."
Dave Sarachan might have been Arena's first lieutenant with the Galaxy, but he isn't necessarily No. 1 with the U.S. national side. Sarachan was associate head coach with the MLS team.
"We haven't classified our staff. It's a coaching staff," Arena said. "One is not ahead of the other. I moved the whole staff from the Galaxy because I believed having a staff that knows how to work together is going to be important in this particular situation."
Arena and Sarachan have worked together for years, first on the squad that reached the 2002 World Cup and most recently with the Galaxy.
"He knows how I do business," Arena said. "He obviously has been around me enough. And that's the case of the other coaches as well. That's the reason why this whole group has moved here together. Richie Williams [former Red Bulls assistant coach and interim head coach and U.S. Under-17 coach], obviously he knows me. He's going to be helping us."
As of last week, Williams was coaching on a temporary basis.
"People who know each other and had some taste of success; it's good to try to keep them together," Arena said.
Arena had no advice for Landon Donovan, who is expected to make a decision soon on whether he would return to play in MLS this season.
"No. I was with him last night," he said. "I gave him no advice. Three hours, didn't talk about it at all. I guess I have no advice."
On Saturday night, Arena told the crowd at the ceremony: "Landon had an incredible career. There's a chance he may continue."
Telling it like it is
Former Western New York Flash head coach Paul Riley, who is negotiating to take over a similar position with the North Carolina Courage, said it best after last week's National Women's Soccer League draft:
"Everyone said they had a good draft," he said, knowingly echoing a favorite line from every coach, general manager, sporting director and technical director after every soccer draft I have covered since 1975.
Of course, they are going to say that. Do you think anyone is going to admit they had a horrible draft?
Only time will tell.