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Toxic Talk: The Dumbest Things Arena Said, Ranked Edition

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Welcome to Toxic Talk, where our resident hater tells you what sucks about soccer this week

Trinidad & Tobago v United States  - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

Many stupid things happened in American sports this week. The Bills started a fifth-round pick in his rookie season for no good reason against the Chargers, and he threw five interceptions in the first half to repay them. Former NHL stalwart Jeremy Roenick caught a rattlesnake with his golfing equipment. But somehow, Bruce Arena was still the dumbest thing in American sports this week, and he doesn’t even have a full-time job requiring him to make sports decisions anymore.

Fox’s decision to put Bruce Arena on the broadcast team against Portugal was only a slightly less-worse decision than Bruce Arena’s decision to accept their offer, since Fox probably got a slight bump for hate-views, while nothing positive came Arena’s way. So here’s a brief run-down everything Arena said, ranked from least to most stupid.

9. “We went to Trinidad on the last day and we failed. And there’s no excuses.”

This is the least stupid thing Bruce Arena said. This is just true. Even though he proceeded to make a bunch of excuses on the broadcast.

8. “I think our system needs to find a way to get younger players on the field.”

This seems 100% not stupid on the face of it, but it is slightly stupid in the sense that Arena assumes that it’s the job of the “system” to get these players on the field. That’s not really the case in any developed soccer country. Younger players get on the field not because of a system guaranteeing them spots in the starting XI, but because they have better coaching from top to bottom that develops younger players faster, and have coaches that are unafraid to play their youth as a result.

7. “U.S. Soccer’s not broken.”

Half stupid. We have the defending Women’s World Cup champions. For all the flak the women got for crashing out of the Olympics before the medal round, that still counts for something.

However, it’s near impossible to look at a campaign where you couldn’t beat Trinidad & Tobago, haven’t qualified for the last two men’s Olympics, and have missed multiple youth World Cups at the U-17 and U-20 levels in the last several years and not say anything is broken. Something is definitely either broken, or was never working very well in the first place.

6. “We did some good things in the year. We had a 14-game unbeaten streak. We won the Gold Cup.”

Stupid and so, so oblivious. No one cares about your winning streak if you don’t qualify for the World Cup with it. No one cares about winning the Gold Cup if you don’t qualify for the World Cup. It’s the second easiest confederation competition to win in the world and it’s held in the U.S. almost every time. Sure, it was nice at the time. But bringing it up now is just deflection.

5. “I think one of the mistakes we made against Costa Rica was going away from that XI that won a Gold Cup, brought in five new players from Europe, and on the day we didn’t play well.”

Really? That was the issue? Reaaaaaally? I can maybe accept this argument for Fabian Johnson playing in his first game back from injury and clearly not at full-fitness, and maybe possibly Tim Ream. But you play your best players. Period.

4. “Qualifying for the World Cup isn’t a given. You saw it yesterday with Italy.”

Yes, that’s comparable, considering Italy needed to win against #25 FIFA-ranked Sweden, and the U.S. needed to win against FREAKING #83 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO.

3. “Major League Soccer is predominantly international players now.”

[Lalas] “Would you mandate that they play players that are eligible for the U.S. National team?

“It’s certainly a thought.”

First of all, it’s not even a correct statement. There were 288 American players at the start of the 2017 MLS season. If you count Canadian players, since there are Canadian teams in MLS, that brings up the number of domestic players to 316. All other countries combined made up 274 rostered players at the beginning of the season. And sure, maybe a whole bunch of those American players don’t play, but once again, it’s not the system’s job to hand those players playing time. That’s the job of competent coaches, which the American system neglects time and time again.

Second, mandating more roster limits than already exist only hurts MLS and the quality of play in the league, and doesn’t ultimately help American players all that much. This has been the case in England for years, as stricter roster rules haven’t changed English players being buried in squads in the Premier League, and England inevitably suffering disappointing results in one international tournament after another. The instinct to blame the foreigners happens just about everywhere, and it’s just about as much bullshit everywhere, too.

2. “I do not agree with [the idea there are talented players falling through the cracks of the U.S. system] at all. I think all the talented players are involved in our systems.”

Ludicrous and ignores just about what every single scout says about the United States. It’s far too big, there aren’t nearly enough scouts, and the vast majority of youth systems consistently price out lower-income and immigrant families. Even look at the people representing the U.S. Jay Demerit was undrafted by any MLS side out of college, moved to England to join a 9th-division side, eventually made his way to Watford, the Premier League, and the U.S. World Cup team in 2010. If he had stayed in the States, he would’ve been a bartender.

1. “Today we see John Brooks partnering up with Matt Miazga, and if I were a betting man, I would’ve bet that those two would’ve been our center backs at the World Cup.”

WHAT?! You had 6 months to give Matt Miazga, a person who you say would’ve been one of your starting center backs at the World Cup, any sort of meaningful playing time, and you gave him all of 90 minutes against Nicaragua. This is the stupidest thing that Bruce Arena said, because it was the one time when I was convinced he was not just deluded, but blatantly lying to the camera. If you think someone is going to start in the World Cup in less than a year’s time, you do not start Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, and Matt Hedges over them. You just don’t.

Piss off.

Boiling Points

  • Caleb Porter bids the Timbers bon voyage -

And with him a slew of rumors in his wake. including the vacant USMNT job. As a previously-confessed Timbers supporter, if Porter takes over the US job, I will go full-Ted Westervelt on all my social media accounts.

  • Jonathan Gonzalez is #1 -

Or at least Monterrey is heading into Liguilla, and Gonzelaz is an integral part of their set-up. The teenager has drawn rave reviews for his play in defensive midfield this year, and while news continues to swirl that Mexico will attempt to lure him away from the U.S. program, the California native still seems to prefer the Stars and Stripes.

All reports seem to indicate that the only reason Gonzalez wasn’t called up for the Portugal friendly was due to the impending Liga MX playoffs and his importance to this Rayados side, so don’t bother pushing the panic button as of yet.

  • The most important stat you need to know about the English game this week -

THE ENGLISH GAME IS T H I C C

  • Zlatan is back and he is still Zlatan -

No comment needed.

After a tenuous-at-best ownership situation doomed FC Kansas City, Real Salt Lake stepped up to take control of their own NWSL team, taking the place of FCKC. While the move brings stability to the situation, FCKC fans will be getting the short end of the stick here, as is most often the case in these situations. Speaking of which...

  • Precourt and MLS not playing ball -

After conflicting reports came out of a meeting between Anthony Precourt, MLS, and the City of Columbus, it seems more likely than ever that the Crew will relocate to Austin and rebrand as...something else, I guess. Ew.