Bruce Arena: No friction among U.S. players born at home or abroad
MILLBRAE, Calif. -- U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena indicated he doesn't expect there to be any lingering issues between U.S.-born and foreign-born players when the team reconvenes later this month for two critical World Cup qualifiers.
In a subsequent interview with ESPN FC, Howard clarified his remarks to state that he wasn't singling out foreign-born players in particular and that he felt some U.S.-born players lacked passion as well. However, Howard indicated there was "an issue" within the team in terms of commitment levels.
Speaking to reporters at a roundtable ahead of Tuesday's announcement of the groups for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, Arena was asked if Howard's comments were something he had addressed in his meetings with players. Arena reiterated his stance that he didn't like the phrase "dual nationals" and that he preferred "U.S. players."
"All I know is they have a U.S. passport," he said.
Arena later said he wasn't concerned about the commitment level of the players.
"This whole thing has gotten a little blown out," he said about Howard's comments. "All the players I've met with want to play for the U.S. team, so I don't have any issues."
In terms of whether there might be any lingering friction between players, Arena said he expects the U.S. players to be focused on the task at hand and play as a team.
"Those are the little games we don't get involved in," he said. "We get together as a team and we're a team when we show up...
"Inside teams it's a lot different than you think. I don't think they're having little verbal wars with each other. They're going to be a team. They want to win. They're going to all do their job and play for each other and represent our country in the right way. That's what I'm anticipating."
Arena traveled to England, Germany, and Mexico during the month of February in a bid to forge closer relationships with the players in the U.S. pool. He said the U.S. staff has "covered our bases in Europe and Mexico" and that he would be spending the next two weeks in the U.S. watching MLS games.
"Everything is good. Basically we've been involved with every player in our active pool of 40-odd players," he said. "We've been in touch with them, communicating with them, meeting with them in person, so all of that has gone well."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.