An argument can be made that soccer has become the fourth major sport in the United States. Some of the other sports have dropped off due to television ratings, dying fan interest, or just too many changes to the sport. Either way, the sport that has been helped in all of this is soccer. While it’s not one league that has benefited from the boost, it’s time to think of how the best manager in modern soccer history, Bruce Arena, holds up to the rest of the sports. I’m looking at three sports; MLB, NFL, and NBA. As a side note, as some would agree Ron Newman was the best manager of the sport before Bruce.
Let’s start this all off with the sport of all sports, the sport that virtually owns three days of the week. That is the National Football League. We could bring up any old time coach like Don Shula, Vince Lombardi, and Tom Landry, but since soccer only became a top four sport in the last decade, we have to consider Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots. Think what you want of him, but his record and coaching ability speak for themselves. The closest comparison in sports to Bruce Arena could be Bill. They are both very smart, and short with the media. Plus people who work with them, swear by them. Bill has four Super Bowl Wins as a head coach, and another two as an assistant. Bruce has five, with two clubs, so we can rest that Bill and Bruce are on the same plane. This sets the table how to rank the coaches. People who don’t like both teams could point out that the leagues allow these coaches to bend the rules.
One of the other great coaches in America is Greg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. The one thing he has on Bruce is that he’s stayed in one place. Greg has been with the Spurs since Major League Soccer’s first year. Arena has lead three clubs, and one nation since then. Coach Pop has had some of the best players in the world on his team. Tim Duncan, and David Robinson, well the Admiral was at the end of his career., Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli. Bruce has at every stop in his career had the honor in coaching the best players, from his early days in DC to the all-star squad he’s had in LA. Pop has had his fair share of title wins too — he’s won five. Since Phil Jackson retired as an active coach, and Pat Riley has been a team President for almost a decade, Coach Pop is the best in the league. In fact, he’s so highly thought of, that he’s the new head coach of the Olympic team.
The other sport we should look at in reference to the discussion is Major League Baseball. And again we’ve lost some great coaches in the last decade. Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre both work for the league now. Torre and LaRussa, both had many World Series Titles to their names, on multiple teams. So in a way, they would be the best comparison for Bruce Arena. The most likely comparison is between Bruce and Joe Maddon the Chicago Cubs manager. Joe just won his first World Series, with the Cubs, a feat that not many people thought would ever happen. He also made the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a successful organization, even getting them into the playoffs. Joe was able to use his farm system to build an organization that was competing with the big boys. While he has only won one title, he has shown that no matter what is thrown at him, he will adapt and win. That’s the true strength of a great coach.
So let us tie this all together, and bring Bruce back into the mix. Joe, Coach Pop, and Bill all have won titles in their specific sports. Only Bruce has won titles as a head coach at two different places, the others all have titles and staying power at one club. What Bruce has shown is that he can adapt to the changing rules of the league. He was able to bring in top talent with the Galaxy with all the new roster rules, and win three titles. Bruce also proved that he could win when one of his star players goes away for a bit. As far as title wins, Bruce ranks up there with Coach Pop and the hoodie. As played out as a phrase as this is, but on a Mount Rushmore of coaches in the major sports, he’d be on the list.