The United States team has played in the last four World Cups and resumes play in the regional semifinal qualifying round on Oct. 9 in El Salvador but Arena the man who guided and cajoled the team to the quarterfinals in South Korea at the 2002 World Cup is critical of Major League Soccer and the United States soccer federation.
"For the league to play games during World Cup qualifying is insane Arena said yesterday in a telephone interview. "It shows a lack of respect for the national team."
FIFA the sport's governing body recently instituted a system that sets aside dates for worldwide qualifying matches. A majority of leagues around the world but not M.L.S. suspends matches for up to two weeks. The MetroStars for example will play an important late-season game against Columbus on Oct. 9 and could be missing some important players (Jonny Walker Eddie Gaven and Eddie Pope of the United States; Fabian Taylor and Craig Ziadie of Jamaica; Amado Guevara of Honduras; and Cornell Glen of Trinidad and Tobago).
"Ideally the league should synchronize its schedule with the rest of the world Arena said. "Next week after I announce my roster the clubs will complain to me again about calling up their players. We are fighting for our lives in qualifying and they're worried about making the playoffs. People are pulling in opposite directions. Every coach and I can't blame them is trying to be successful. And they will call me every coach. The decision to play games during qualifying is their problem."
Arena addressed several other issues involving M.L.S. and the national team program:
MEANINGFUL GAMES IN M.L.S. "Most of the regular-season games mean nothing. The players are not motivated and in reality the games don't mean a lot until the last month of the season. And players only get better when they play real games all the time. The league needs to think about a bonus system going to a single table and reducing the number of teams in the playoffs. It's 8 of 10 teams now and I know the league is going to 12 teams but four in the playoffs would make more sense."
ALL-STAR GAME "A complete waste of time."
U.S. OPEN CUP "Debatable it makes any sense" for M.L.S. teams to participate.
RESERVE TEAMS "It would be a positive thing for young players but I realize it is a matter of economics. They would have better opportunities to develop and by getting reserve games these players would be ready if there were injuries or national team call-ups."
EXPECTATIONS OF U.S. WINNING THE WORLD CUP "That's the problem. That's the way people think. It's a product of the environment we live in that the sporting world is centered around sports we have invented winning championships and calling ourselves world champions. We actually believe this and it's pretty comical. There are only a few global sports: soccer basketball tennis and golf. Look at how we do. We can't compete in the Ryder Cup although we think we are the best golfers in the world. We were sixth in the basketball world championships played in our own country and third in the Olympics.
"People have got to realize that the World Cup is the most challenging sporting competition in the world. And all people can say is that we can't beat Panama in Panama City. No one gets it. In soccer every country has experienced players. I'm saying to people: 'Educate yourself now. The boundaries have been extended in global sports economics and politics.' We have a long way to go."
STATE OF THE GAME "In soccer we don't have any administrators with soccer skills in terms of knowing the game and that is the case at U.S. Soccer and M.L.S. We are trying to select venues for qualifying games that give us the best chance to succeed but are compromised when games are put in M.L.S. venues to help the league. Not sure playing El Salvador in Foxboro was the best idea."
Other M.L.S. News
CD Chivas USA named Thomas Rongen its first coach last week. Rongen a native of the Netherlands has coached three teams in M.L.S. and most recently was the coach of the United States under-20 men's national team. Chivas will serve as the northern outpost of the Guadalajara-based Mexican club. The new team will share the Home Depot Center with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
STAT CORNER The MetroStars are the league's highest-scoring team with 44 on a league-high 416 shots (178 on goal) 43 more than Colorado's 373. The Crew is riding a 14-game unbeaten streak and has allowed only 10 second-half goals in 26 games this season. The Crew has a 7-0-0 record when leading at halftime. Even as much of the hubbub surrounding Freddy Adu has subsided D.C. United continues to be league's top road attraction averaging 23030 fans in away games.
AMERICANS ABROAD Striker Clint Mathis came on as a substitute late in the second half and scored the game's only goal as Hannover 96 beat Schalke 04 for its first victory in the German Bundesliga this season. Conor Casey played 20 minutes as surprising Mainz moved up to fifth place in the Bundesliga with a 1-1 draw against visiting Borussia Dortmund. Midfielder Claudio Reyna was injured in practice and did not play during Manchester City's loss to Arsenal. He may miss the next two World Cup qualifiers for the United States. Goalkeeper Tim Howard was consigned to the stands again when Manchester United started Roy Carroll with Ricardo in reserve. Kasey Keller remains as Paul Robinson's backup at Tottenham. Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra missed the game against Southampton with a tender hamstring but should return next week. His teammate Brian McBride returned to the starting lineup and played the entire game.
COLLEGES The senior Chris Karcz playing in his first game of the season after sustaining a knee injury last spring scored two goals as Rutgers (3-3-2) beat No. 3 Michigan (6-1) on Friday in Piscataway N.J. No. 13 Duke (9-0) traveled to College Park Md. and handed top-ranked Maryland (5-2-1) its second straight loss.