In today’s conference call announcing Bruce Arena’s appointment to become the new manager of the U.S. national team, he was asked about statements made in 2013 regarding foreign-born U.S. national team players.
In 2013, he said to ESPN Magazine:
Players on the national team should be–and this is my own feeling–they should be Americans. If they’re all born in other countries, I don’t think we can say we are making progress.
Today, Arena said:
If I made those comments, I certainly don't believe that's my attitude. As a starting point with dual nationals, one of my favorite players in my previous eight years with the U.S. national team is Earnie Stewart.
I embrace all players that are eligible to play, I just want to make sure that their heart is in the right place.
David Regis is another foreign born player that was part of the 2002 World Cup squad that featured that Stewart. His 2006 World Cup roster did not feature any foreign born players.
Sunil Gulati added a little more perspective to Arena’s statement from previous conversations with him. He said:
If we have players primarily developed abroad, they don't reflect in the same way on the development programs that we have going on in the U.S..
The big difference between Arena and Klinsmann in regards to foreign born players is summed up in Gulati’s statement. While Arena does not disapprove of foreign born players, he will not place as large of an emphasis on recruiting them. He believes that players born and developed in the United States are important for the development of the sport in this country, and he will likely emphasize that side of the player pool.
The difference between the 2002 and 2006 teams is important here. Arena kept foreign born players that fit his team in Stewart and Regis, while he did not recruit heavily to add to the foreign born base of players by 2006. According to his statements, dropping current foreign born players sounds unlikely, but Arena will not use a lot of energy to recruit more foreign born players as Klinsmann did.