CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and players offered their congratulations to the U.S. men’s national team for advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup on Thursday.
The Americans lost to Germany 1-0 in their final game of group play but still reached the round of 16, where they will play Belgium, a 1-0 winner over South Korea, on Tuesday.
“Give the U.S. credit,” said Arena, who coached the national team from 1998-2006, including an historic run to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002. “They persevered in a difficult group. I thought all along they needed to get three points against Ghana and one against Portugal.
“It’s good to advance. (Wednesday’s) game wasn’t particularly good, but they were playing one of the better teams in the world and that’s the way the U.S. is going to play … grind it out and get good goalkeeping. Create an odd chance every now and then.
“They’re a battling team, a fit team, an organized team.”
Gyasi Zardes said Wednesday’s development says a lot about the state of soccer in this country.
“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m extremely happy the U.S. has advanced and I feel like we can go far in this tournament.
“It says American soccer can compete with other countries. We advanced and we’re only growing.”
Robbie Rogers was impressed, to say the least, with what he saw.
“I thought the guys worked their butts off and defended well,” he said. “I thought they did what they had to; they’re on to the next round.
“Obviously we would have been more pleased with a draw or a win, but they were playing against one of the best countries in the world. We’ll learn from these mistakes and take them against Belgium or whoever they play.”
ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman was among many observers who felt the U.S. had little, if any, chance of advancing out of the so-called “Group of Death” to the round of 16. Arena said moving on is a definite sign of progress, although he thinks the U.S. remains “one or two World Cups away from competing with the big boys.”
He also said he was surprised at some of the outcomes, particularly defending champion Spain and England making earlier-than-expected departures.
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted this World Cup,” he said. “Even though at the end of the day there will be seven European teams, five South American, three CONCACAF and two African. Who would have guessed that?
“When the dust settles the big boys are going to be around. There’s not going to be any Cinderella stories. However, I think Costa Rica may make it to the last eight.”