In the wake of Gregg Berhalter’s departure to become the head coach for the United States Men’s National Team, Columbus Crew SC is left with two major vacancies. Both the role of head coach and sporting director were filled by Berhalter, who was given full control of the soccer side of Crew SC during his tenure.
Massive Report reported on Sunday that Black & Gold assistant coach Josh Wolff and former Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter are the favorites to become the club’s seventh head coach in team history. According to multiple sources close to the situation, Bruce Arena has emerged as the favorite to land the general manager/sporting director position. This was first reported by ESPN and confirmed by Massive Report. Other name of interest for the same role was former Crew SC head coach Sigi Schmid and longtime coach Dave Sarachan who just finished as interim coach of the U.S. National Team.
Since Berhalter’s official departure on Sunday, assistant coach Pat Onstad has stepped in as interim general manager and will handle the duties until a full-time replacement is named. It is unclear if Onstad is a candidate for the general manager position.
Arena is a name familiar to fans of U.S. Soccer and MLS. He began his soccer coaching career as the head coach at the University of Virginia, serving there for 18 years. He left the program to become the first head soccer coach of D.C. United, where he won the first two MLS Cups in MLS history. Arena was hired as the U.S. men’s soccer coach in 1998 and guided the team to the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Arena had a short year and a half stint with the New York Red Bulls before taking over the LA Galaxy, where he would go on to coach Berhalter, and win three more MLS Cups.
The most recent stop for Arena came with the U.S. National Team once again. He was named the Americans’ head coach for the second time in November of 2016, replacing Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. however failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, going 3-2-3 in the final eight games of qualifying and not advancing to the world’s biggest stage for the first time since the 1986 tournament.
The step away from coaching to solely roster building is new for Arena. He has been a coach or had control of both coaching and general manager duties at each stop during his career. This position would share responsibilities with the next Crew SC head coach when he is named.
No coach can match Arena’s coaching success in MLS. He has won the most MLS Cups of any coach (5). He’s also coached three Supporter Shield winning teams, D.C. in 1997 and back to back shields with LA in 2010 and 2011. Arena is second in all time wins in MLS to Sigi Schmid.
After the failed attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Arena is yet to step back into soccer. A chance to return in a different role, overseeing soccer operations as opposed to being on the sideline, could be very appealing to Arena as he works with new Crew SC ownership and the newly appointed Black & Gold head coach.