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Arena leads U.S. men’s soccer resurgence

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Bruce Arena has been tasked with saving the United States' World Cup hopes.

Bruce Arena has been tasked with saving the United States' World Cup hopes.

Google image/Creative Commons license

Google image/Creative Commons license

Bruce Arena has been tasked with saving the United States' World Cup hopes.

Two competitive games into his second tenure as coach of the U.S. national men’s soccer team, Bruce Arena has officially hit the ground running. After a rocky start in its World Cup qualifying campaign, the squad is back on track, winning 6-0 at home against Honduras on March 24 and drawing 1-1 away at Panama on March 28, putting the Americans back in contention for an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance.

Arena was handed the U.S. national team job on Nov. 21, and was giving the task of getting the United States to Russia 2018. Adding to the pressure, Arena also had to figure out how to dig the Americans out of a hole created during the tenure of former coach Jurgen Klinsmann, whose national team lost its first two games in group play.

So about those first two games?

Well, Arena’s squad has jumped to fourth in the group, escaping from last place. Clint Dempsey, on his return to service after being out with an irregular heartbeat, scored four goals in the two games, making him the United States’ all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying and second in all competitions– by one goal–to Landon Donovan.

Arena used an all-out offensive system against Honduras, with Dempsey grabbing a hat trick and 18-year-old wunderkind Christian Pulisic scoring a goal, along with three assists. The starting trio of Jozy Altidore, Dempsey, and Pulisic ran riot, with Altidore’s strength allowing him to hold up the ball for Dempsey and Pulisic to make runs in behind the Honduran defense.

The only downside? Injuries to both John Brooks and Sebastian Lletget could impact the team going forward. It seemed to affect the squad, particularly on defense, against Panama.

It’s hard to judge a coach after just two competitive games, as there is still so much more to be seen, both on and off the field. With six more games to play in the group, the Americans currently sit a single point away from one of the three automatic qualifying positions in the group.

The United States now faces a two-month wait before its next game, when it plays host to Trinidad and Tobago in June before traveling to Mexico for a match against its archrival that could decide its future–and perhaps determine if Arena truly is the right man to save U.S. soccer.

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Obligated to Truth
Arena leads U.S. men’s soccer resurgence