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May 14, 2019

BRUUCE! Or is it BOOO!!!???

Peter Nolan May 14, 2019


Or is that BOOOO!!!???

Today’s announcement that the New England Revolution hired Bruce Arena to take over as both coach and Sporting Director of the moribund MLS originals has drawn both responses.

And despite Arena’s impressive resume, that split reaction to his hiring by a team desperate for, well, everything, comes as no surprise.

Bruce Arena: The Good!

So, let’s take a look at that resume. Arena has won more MLS Cup titles (5) than anyone. He captured the first two in MLS history with DC United (1996 and 1997) and three with the L.A. Galaxy (2011, 2012, 2014).

The reason for the gap in titles is that Arena was coaching the USMNT, advancing the U.S. to the quarterfinals in Japan/South Korea, where a handball on the goalline prevented the U.S. from potentially taking mighty Germany to extra time. That result remains the best for the Americans at the World Cup.

Arena leads MLS coaches in Cup titles, Coach of the Year awards (3), Supporters Shields (tied with Sigi Schmid with 3), and is second in wins with 202 to the late Schmid’s 240.

Bruce Arena: The Bad?

So, that accounts for the positive BRUUCE! reaction. But why would anyone BOOOO! hiring the man behind all of those accomplishments?

The obvious answer:

Trinidad and Tobago, October 10, 2016 (aka The Day that Will Live in US Soccer Infamy)

Too much? Ok, let’s put it another way. The night that the heavily favored Americans lost 2-1 to already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The aftershocks of that loss are still being felt by players like Michael Bradley (often booed every time he touches the ball at away games–especially in Atlanta) and Jozy Altidore, who fans have raked over the coal to point where it seems some may never forgive them for that night in Couva.

As the coach of the team that failed, Arena likewise has earned the enmity of some who simply will not forgive or forget.

Then there is Arena’s attitude. Has he been humbled at all by missing out on the World Cup? On the one hand, the BRUUCE! hand, Arena took responsibility in the aftermath and quickly resigned.

On the other, the BOOOO! hand, there is Arena’s book, “What’s wrong with Us,” (clever). From his book:

“If I had it all to do over again, I’d take the job again in a second, and even though people don’t want to hear it, I don’t think that, given the limited time I had, there is much I would do differently, either.”

And there is some unease about his final days with Los Angeles. Having won MLS Cup in 2014, L.A. finished fifth in 2015, third in 2016 when Arena left late in the MLS season to replace Jurgen Klinsmann on that failed World Cup rescue mission.

Then with Arena gone the wheels fell off for the Galaxy who finished last in the Western Conference. Arena wasn’t there, so was he absolved? Or did Arena deserve criticism for leaving the cupboard bare for his successor?

Had Arena lost interest?

So which is it for you? BRUUCE! Or BOOOO!

Personally, I was all for bringing Arena back to replace Klinsmann at the time. Klinsmann’s inscrutable act had long worn thin by then and it was clear his players were ready for something different. Arena’s plainspoken (if dipped in sarcasm) style, combined with his deep experience in all things CONCACAF seemed just the ticket to get the U.S. to Russia.

That it didn’t work, that Arena couldn’t coax even one more point out of the USMNT against a group that sent Panama (Panama!!!) to the Word Cup is troubling. Did anyone see Panama at the World Cup and not find themselves screaming- we couldn’t beat out those guys?!

But I digress. Is Arena the right choice to lead New England out of the wilderness? Maybe. As Sporting Director he will be his own boss. If Tom Brady is not playing, the owners don’t care. Maybe that’s good. Especially if they give Arena the Kraft family checkbook.

And Arena is surely a huge upgrade over fired General Manager Mike Burns and first-time coach Brad Friedel. At 67, Arena will have to show he has the energy for one last big project. I believe that his ego is bringing him back for one more tilt at the windmill, one final chance to burnish his reputation before he walks away, and that might be the best motivation of all.

So for me, it’s not BRUUCE! But it’s not BOOOO! either.
I guess it’s just Bruce.

UEFA May Ban Manchester City from Champions League for One Year

Chops May 14, 2019

Before Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan purchased Manchester City, they were basically Newcastle United, minus any tangible recent success.

Just 20 years ago, City was in England’s third domestic division. They fought their way up and down since, but have been permanently back in the Premier League since the 2002-03 season. They were a mid-to-bottom table for the following years.

Then 2008 came.

The team was purchased by Shiek Mansour, whose brother rules the United Arab Emirates. They went from almost complete irrelevance to having a cash infusion into the billions, a new stadium, and an out-of-nowhere bandwagon American fan base. They won their first Premier League title in 2011-12, and have won four the past eight overall.

They spent billions–but they spent it wisely (just because you have the money doesn’t mean you get the right players…Exhibit A: Manchester United). But did they achieve this success within the parameters of the rules at hand?

While it’s not our place to speak to the background or motivations of their ownership group, one thing that’s becoming increasingly evident: City seems to have knowingly broken financial fair play rules.

UEFA considering Champions League ban for City

According to the New York Times, UEFA is potentially recommending a one year Champions League ban on City for misleading European soccer’s financial regulators and breaking financial fair play rules (the full article is worth a read).

The violations and City’s internal comms were first brought to light by Der Spiegel. UEFA has investigated. A recommended punishment is forthcoming. City will likely aggressively fight any ruling.

A Champions League ban would hurt City the most.

Having won four of the last eight Premier League titles (with a current roster that costs over a billion dollars), a Carabao Cup and FA Cup, the UCL crown is the only major title that eludes the club. While a Champions League title is the crown jewel in Europe, it’s also a bonafide cash cow. Winners expect a $100M+ financial windfall. Finalists earn north of $90M. This won’t just hurt the hubris of City’s ownership group, it’ll hurt their bottomline.

What is financial fair play?

UEFA set up financial fair play (FFP) rules as soccer’s popularity (and wages) exploded in the early 2000’s. Enacted in 2011, FFP is a means to protect clubs from themselves and establish some general economic rules and boundaries. More specifically, FFP prevents soccer clubs from spending more than they earn on players as they chase titles. The goal is to limit a clubs’ financial stress and better ensure their long-term survival (particularly when a wealthy owner gets bored with the team or doesn’t want to invest in a losing project any more).

How Manchester City violated FFP

Now to that bolded “spending more than they earn” from the above section…

According to the Times and drawn from Spiegel, “The files are said to include emails and internal club documents showing efforts by City to circumvent UEFA’s financial fair-play regulations by masking cash infusions from a United Arab Emirates state-backed investment company through inflated sponsorship agreements with entities including the U.A.E.’s national airline, Etihad. Etihad is City’s principal sponsor, its name adorning the team’s stadium, its signage during matches and even the front of the players’ jerseys.”

If true, they not only violated the rules, but according to the Times, misled investigators about it.

When would City’s potential Champions League ban take place?

If UEFA recommends a ban, it’s unclear if it would be for the 2019-20 Champions League or the 2020-21 campaign.

The reality is, City’s ownership group will most definitely legally fight any ban, so don’t City to miss out on the upcoming Champions League. 2020-21 would be the earliest to expect.

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