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Arena will start by trying to put out a Fire

Galaxy's new coach and general manager begins reclamation project tonight against Chicago.

August 21, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Show Bruce Arena a microphone and he's right there.

If there's one thing that separates Arena from his Galaxy coaching predecessors, it's his willingness to express an opinion.

Asked this week why he had chosen to come to Los Angeles -- above and beyond all the money that Galaxy owner AEG is throwing at him -- Arena didn't hesitate.

"The sun and the weather year-round, I don't really like," he said. "I prefer the East Coast, where it's 100 degrees and humid right now. And in the winter I love the snow and the blizzards and all that. I'm crazy to be here. I don't really understand why I've come here."

Sarcasm is a sharp tool in the Arena arsenal.

Tonight, the 56-year-old former U.S. national soccer team coach will be on the bench for the first time as the Galaxy's new general manager and coach. The opponent at the Home Depot Center is the Chicago Fire, a team once coached by Arena's top assistant, Galaxy associate coach Dave Sarachan.

Sarachan has known Arena for 24 years and has coached alongside him and against him. Has Arena mellowed since the two led the U.S. to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals?

"His perspective has changed," Sarachan said. "He's been through the ups and the downs. I wouldn't call it mellowing. I think it's just sort of evening out a little bit. I think he's a little more patient with things."

Arena, meanwhile, is quite clear about why Sarachan is in L.A.

"I realized that if I was going to take on this challenge I'd need to have a second-in-command who, when I get assassinated, could take over right away," he said. "I'm very confident in Dave. He's not only a friend, but he's an absolutely loyal person with a lot of integrity, which is rare in this business.

"In having two duties as head coach and general manager, that's a lot of responsibility, and I know a lot of my successes in coaching have been because I've had very good players but also because I've had a guy next to me I could depend on."

After eight years with the national team, Arena coached the New York Red Bulls for little more than one season. He comes into the Galaxy job after a nine-month break during which he did some consulting for MLS teams and some television work with the Kansas City Wizards.

Oddly enough, it was Kansas City technical director and former U.S. international player Peter Vermes that AEG first sought for the Galaxy general manager's position, but Vermes turned it down.

With four decades in soccer, Arena has, as Sarachan said, some perspective.

"If this game is taken away from me tomorrow, I could just say, 'Boy, I've had experiences that no one else has ever had,' " Arena said. "I've experienced the highs and lows in this game. I've sat with presidents in the White House, I met prime ministers and leaders all over the world. I've coached in World Cups. I feel like this game has been more than fair to me."

So what does he bring to the Galaxy?

"Bruce is going to bring in his own ways of doing things," said assistant coach Cobi Jones. "He's going to define his expectations from the guys and demand that they meet those expectations. He's obviously proven himself in the past. You can't deny the results that Bruce has gotten."



vs. Chicago, 7, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes

Site -- Home Depot Center

Radio -- 1150, 1330 (Spanish)

Records -- Galaxy 6-8-6; Fire 9-6-5

Record vs. Fire -- (2007)1-1-0

Update -- Bruce Arena makes his debut as Galaxy coach and former U.S. national team striker Brian McBride makes his debut for the Fire after spending the last four seasons with Fulham in the English Premier League. Landon Donovan will be back from Wednesday night's U.S. World Cup qualifier at Guatemala but is unlikely to play. David Beckham will not play because, after helping England tie the Czech Republic on Wednesday, he was set to fly to Beijing and take part in the closing ceremony of the Olympics. The Fire's Cuauhtemoc Blanco is also a doubtful participant after being with Mexico's national team Wednesday night for its World Cup qualifier against Honduras.


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