Bruce Arena, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National soccer team, is bullish about how devoted St. Louis-area residents are to his sport.
Arena spent part of Tuesday morning fielding fan questions at the Amsterdam Tavern in St. Louis. He was in town to appear at an event with a team sponsor, as well as visit St. Louis-based Enterprise, which he described as a “potential sponsor” for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer.
Arena’s visit comes at a critical time for St. Louis’ soccer future. City residents are slated to vote in April on whether to offer up taxpayer funds for a MLS stadium. SC STL’s Jim Kavanaugh and Dave Peacock were on hand at the event.
Arena is in his second stint as the men’s team coach, having been brought back after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired amid the team’s struggle to qualify for next year’s World Cup. Arena told reporters that he was “back in one of the rich soccer communities in the United States.”
“Everyone knew in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s that St. Louis is a front-runner in the sport,” Arena said. “Developed great players, had a great following. Many cities around the country tried to mimic St. Louis. And many years later now, we have 100 St. Louises or more in the United States.”
Just how devoted is the area’s fans? Arena pointed to the quality of the questions he received — many of which were not softballs. Among other things, Arena was asked about on whether coaching in Major League Soccer was lacking; whether Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey would return to the national team; and whether the U.S. college soccer programs are robust enough to produce good players.
“It was good that they hadn’t gotten here a little earlier and started drinking,” Arena said. “The sober questions are sometimes a lot better than the not sober questions.”
For his part, Arena made no predictions on whether St. Louis could outflank other cities angling to become home to one of four MLS expansion teams. When asked if it was odd if St. Louis didn’t have a MLS team, Arena replied: “Yeah – it’s a great market with a great history.”
“I don’t make any of those decisions,” said Arena, who has coached the Los Angeles Galaxy. “Hopefully St. Louis’ time will come.”
After Arena finished answering media questions, he drank a beer with the owners of the Amsterdam Tavern; he quipped near the end of his Q&A session that he “will not have 57 beers, though.”
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