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Major League Soccer

Arena is hired by Red Bulls to revive flagging fortunes.

Bruce Arena
Bruce Arena returns to Major League Soccer, where he coached D.C. United to the first three MLS Cup finals, winning the league's initial two championships in 1996 and 1997.
-- File photo --

SECAUCUS, N.J. (Tuesday, July 18, 2006) -- Four days after the Unied States Soccer Federation announced it would not renew Bruce Arena's contract as manager of the U.S. men, he was hired as coach of Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.

Though Arena's contract with the USSF does not expire until December 31 and U.S. Soccer Sunil Gulati said Friday he expected Arena to fulfill his contract, Gulati also said he would not allow that obligation prevent the coach from accepting a new job.

Arena replaces Mo Johnston, who was fired by the Red Bulls June 27. During the interim, Richie Williams, who played for Arena at University of Virginia and MLS's D.C. United, served as coach for five games, leading the team to a 1-3-1 record.

New York is 3-6-8 overall with 17 points, last in the Eastern Conference. Only Real Salt Lake, last in the Western Conference at 4-9-4 with 16 points has a worse record. The Red Bulls, who were the MetroStars until this season, have been one of MLS's most underachieving franchises and have gone though eight prior coaches, not including Williams, in the club's 11-year history.

At 71-30-29 (.658), Arena was the most successful coach in U.S. history, posting twice as many victories as any of his predecessors with, by far, the best winning percentage. In 2002, the Americans advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals, but could not live up to the expectations that followed that historic run in the recently-completed Germany 2006.

The 130 matches were the most under one coach in U.S. history, coming in a tenure of almost eight years. Arena was hired on October 27, 1998, coaching the Americans to a 0-0 draw with Australia in his debut November 6, 1998, at Spartan Stadium in San Jose., Calif.

In the 2006 Cup, the U.S. was 0-2-1, last in the tough Group E and wining up finishing 25th. The Americans managed only two goals, one of which was an own goal.

Arena was the coach of D.C. United from 1996-98, advancing to the first three MLS Cup finals, winning the initial two championships in 1996 and 1997. Under Arena, United also won the 1996 U.S. open Cup, the 1997 CONCACAF Champions Cup and the 1998 Interamerican Cup.

Prior to that, Arena was coach at University of Virginia for 18 years, becoming the first coach to lead his team to four consecutive NCAA Division I titles. A fifth championship was shared with Santa Clara, which was coached by Steve Sampson, Arena's predecessor as U.S. manager.

"He has been extraordinarily successful at every level he's coached at," Gulati said Friday. "Bruce has nothing but the strongest possible compliments for his accomplishments, for his achievements, for his integrity and everything he's done with us."

With the Red Bulls, Arena inherits a club with a multitude of problems. Midfielder Amado Geuvara, disgruntled by his contract, battled engaged in a war of words with then president and general manager Alexi Lalas (now serving in a similar job with the Los Angeles Galaxy). The MetroStars "Most Valuable Player" last year, who scored 26 goals and added 31 assists in his first three years with the team, including 11 goals and 11 assists in 2005, has two goals and no assists in 14 matches this year.

Midfielder Youri Djorkaeff, a member of France's 1998 World Cup champions, had 10 goals and seven assists last season, his first with the MetroStars, but grew increasingly disgruntled with what he saw as less-than-professional management.

Around July 1, he asked for a leave of absence to attend to personal matters in France, then turned up on with his wife in stands watching France's World Cup semifinal against Portugal in Munich. Though it has been confirmed Djorkaeff's mother is ill, he has yet to return to the team. He has only two goals and three assists in 2006.

Guevara ($281,250) and Djorkaeff ($207,000) are the two highest-paid players on a club where 15 players on the opening-day roster make $60,000 or less.

Recent injuries to goalkeeper Tony Meola and midfielder Mark Lisi have not helped New York's fortunes.

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