CARSON, Calif. – Bruce Arena missed his second straight day of training on Wednesday, but any notions of a coaching change at The Home Depot Center are severely misplaced.
Arena flew to New York following the game against Real Madrid and was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the friendly between the U.S. and Brazil. He was inducted to the Hall alongside Toronto FC head coach Preki, former National Team captain Thomas Dooley and NASL legend Kyle Rote Jr.
Named to the Hall of Fame on the Builder’s Ballot in January, Arena is the all-time leader in wins as coach of the National Team, a position that he held from 1998-2006, helping the U.S. reach the World Cup twice. The 58-year-old New York native also won a pair of MLS Cup titles with D.C. United in 1996 and 1997 and was a five time NCAA champion as coach at the University of Virginia.
“I’m very appreciative of the recognition. It’s a diverse class for sure,” Arena said of his induction. “Kyle Rote and I are about the same age and we grew up actually with similar backgrounds. We started in the game so late and then you have Preki and Dooley who obviously learned their trade in other countries and have come here to help build the game. So it’s really a diverse and unique class and a class I’m proud to be a part of.”
Watch Arena’s induction speech.
With Arena on the East Coast, Dave Sarachan and Cobi Jones have taken charge of the club’s training sessions the last two days.
While Arena was being honored before the U.S.-Brazil game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, three of his current Galaxy players were in Bob Bradley’s starting lineup for that game. New York native Edson Buddle, as well as Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez were in action for the Red, White and Blue in their 2-0 loss to the five-time World Cup champions.
Buddle played 45 minutes in that game before coming off at halftime, while Donovan played 61 minutes to earn his 128th cap, tying him with Marcelo Balboa for the third most appearances in U.S. history.
Making his first-ever appearance with the National Team, Gonzalez played the full 90 minutes in central defense, earning plaudits from head coach Bob Bradley.
“It’s not an easy first game, let’s face it,” Bradley said after the game. “I talked yesterday about picking the right time for players and making sure, you time things well and put them in a situation where you feel like it’s the right first opportunity. I think if you have watched Omar throughout the year, he is still young. Physically, there are some great starting points. He’s made progress with the Galaxy and Bruce has done a great job. He has some plays now where there are things going on around him and it’s not that easy for him to keep track of all these things. Hopefully he’s a player that with more of these kinds of experiences can continue to grow.”
And Omar himself was impressed with the experience.
“Making the All-Star team and now this…I was actually a late call-up and had no clue that I would be playing here this soon. I’m just really ecstatic to be here. I’m loving this. I think there are still a lot more young guys out there that have yet to be seen. I think it’s good that Bob Bradley has brought me and Alejandro Bedoya along and it gives us experience. Hopefully, some more young bright talent can come out.”
On Wednesday night, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts is expected to be in action for the Jamaican National Team in their friendly against Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain. Following the game, Ricketts will fly to New York, where he will join up with the rest of the National Team ahead of Saturday’s game against the Red Bulls.
Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk still can’t stop smiling after the club claimed him on waivers from the Philadelphia Union last week.
The native of Rancho Santa Margarita and four-year standout at UCLA is reunited with former Bruins midfielder and Galaxy rookie Michael Stephens and was a member of the club’s U-20 team in 2008, when he helped that squad win the Pacific Southern California Division title in their inaugural season.
The 21-year-old Perk was a Fourth Round MLS SuperDraft pick by the expansion Union in January but did not appear in any regular season games for the club, although he did play in recent friendlies against Celtic and Manchester United.
Galaxy assistant coach Trevor James, the team’s director of player development who oversees the team’s youth academy that includes U-16, U-18 and U-20 teams, has been impressed with Perk for some time.
“He’s extremely athletic, enthusiastic, wants to train and wants to play,” James said. “Certainly he has a very good base of talent, and I’m sure working with us is going to make a big difference for him.”
Said goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer, “He’s a young guy and has tons to learn, but he has a lot of ability that’s pretty raw. We’re just going to try and nurture it.
“He’s a good acquisition and we’re excited to have him here.”
But arguably not as excited as Perk, who is thrilled to be in Southern California again.
“It’s great to be back home,” he said. “I’ve seen my parents, my friends. Everyone’s happy … I’m happy. It’s just a better situation for me.”
YOUTH IS SERVED
Tuesday marked a special day for more than 250 youths and their parents from AYSO Region 10 in Palos Verdes who watched the Galaxy’s training session.
Regional commissioner David Behenna and Mike McLoughlin, the Galaxy liaison for the region, said the day will be one the youngsters, will not forget. It also featured a behind-the-scenes look at The Home Depot Center and even a short tour of the locker rooms.
McLoughlin said he was expecting a turnout of between 100-150 and got almost twice that.
Behenna said Tuesday was ideal for those boys and girls who might be thinking of playing soccer for a living.
“This is definitely a kick-start for them,” he said. “This is a unique experience not everyone gets to have.”
Added McLoughlin, “I’m betting it will leave a memory they’ll have for a very, very long time.”