It finally happened, late in the afternoon of Monday, November 21, 2016: Jurgen Klinsmann got the sack. It was a surprise, at least in the sense that it required his greatest ally - US Soccer President Sunil Gulati - to do the deed. But it also wasn't surprising, as he had long been making questionable lineup and tactical decisions, and the results his US Men's National Team delivered did not provide adequate answers to those questions.
Subsequently, as had been widely tipped, US Soccer announced Klinsmann's replacement as USMNT head coach: Bruce Arena was the choice from Soccer House in Chicago.
What will we see from the second coming of Arena Football? Very simply, expect the new coach to keep things simple.
Bruce Arena is a no-nonsense man. He will not tolerate his players messing around, but he will have their respect - just as he respects his players. Unlike his predecessor, he won't tinker with tactics or formation on the eve of a World Cup qualifier, nor will he throw his players under the bus after losses.
We know this because we have already seen quite a lot of Arena as USMNT head coach. We saw him during two cycles of World Cup qualifying. He had some solid results and some poor results, but got his side into the South quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. That achievement was thanks to a solid 3-2 win against Portugal, a draw with South Korea and some help from the Taeguk Warriors - South Korea's win over Portugal offset USMNT's loss to Poland and allowed the USA to escape the group stage.
What followed was perhaps the greatest dos-a-cero in USMNT history. Brian McBride and Landon Donovan scored against Mexico to deliver USMNT's first (to date, only) win in a World Cup knockout stage match. And the team went on to give Germany a scare in the quarterfinals, losing 1-0 with a clear handball denied the Americans in the second half.
In qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, the USA breezed through the Hex with Arena in charge. It was a perhaps unexpectedly straightforward qualification effort, given that the campaign started with players locked out of the January camp that was supposed to provide the necessary preparation for the start of the Hex in early February, 2005. A labor dispute between the players and US Soccer forced Arena to commence his camp with replacement players recruited from the USA's lower leagues.
Fortunately, the dispute was resolved in the nick of time. The abbreviated preparations didn't stop USMNT from winning the first road qualifier, 2-1, on the road in Trinidad and Tobago.
There followed a loss to Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, but then the USA tallied five straight wins, capped by a dos-a-cero victory over El Tri in Columbus. The string of wins made Germany 2006 a certainty for USMNT, but sadly the tournament didn't go nearly as well for Arena and the team as that of 2002. A World Cup group stage exit with nothing but a point against (eventual champion) Italy to show for the effort signaled the end of the USMNT's Arena era. At least, we thought it was the end of that era.
After his first stint with USMNT, Arena moved on to the New York Red Bulls, replacing Mo Johnston - who had replaced Bob Bradley, who himself ended up taking over USMNT. We'll see if Arena lands back at RBNY after 2018.
But what's really important here is that Bruce Arena knows what is needed to make sure USMNT's current predicament - zero points from the first two games of the current Hex - doesn't turn into a real crisis. Jurgen Klinsmann had steered the national team's ship into troubled waters, and Arena knows how to weather the storm and stay the course to Russia. He has already said in many interviews with the US Media that all the players that was called in by Klinsmann either from within MLS or in Europe will have an chance to be heard by Bruce and they will hear from him.
He is a fair man. He has already said in many interviews with the US media that all the players called in by Klinsmann - either from within MLS or from elsewhere - will have a chance. The January camp will bring a first opportunity for the current pool and those Arena thinks might have been overlooked to be evaluated.
Personally, there are two players I am hoping have already caught Arena's eye, since he will be familiar with them from his time coaching LA Galaxy: Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty. The former didn't get quite the opportunity he had hoped for in the last round of Hex matches; the latter is a stalwart for RBNY and could surely do a job for USMNT in World Cup qualifying.
Those New York Red Bulls and a great many other players will wait for Arena to announce the invitations to the first camp of his second stint as USMNT head coach.