Bruce Arena has penned a letter declaring his belief the United States national team will get the job done in its final two World Cup qualifiers and asked the fans for their support.
Arena took over following Jurgen Klinsmann’s dismissal after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to open up the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
While Arena saw an initial uptick in success which included a 14-game unbeaten run and a title in the summer’s Gold Cup, a 2-0 defeat at home to Costa Rica and a 1-1 draw away to Honduras has put the U.S. in a tenuous position.
Now in fourth place, a home game Friday in Orlando against Panama and a road date against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday are must wins if the U.S. wants to guarantee qualification.
Anything less than six points means the U.S. could finish out of the top three, which are the automatic qualification spots — and possibly out of the top four, which would mean no playoff with Asia and no World Cup altogether.
However, Arena thinks the U.S. has the quality and belief to qualify, and released a letter to fans Tuesday night to ask for their support.
Addressing “all of our amazing U.S. national team fans” Arena writes: “Win.
“That’s the message to our players. Easier said than done but that’s all there is to it.
“Yes, we will be prepared. Yes, we will work hard. Yes, we will be ready.
“But winning isn’t just about effort. Winning is a mentality. It’s about fighting for every ball, hunting for every opportunity, staring down your opponent and saying ‘You’re not beating me today.’”
Arena goes on to talk about the need for pride while wearing the U.S. shirt and says he would have taken this position of needing four or six points from the final two games after taking over for Klinsmann.
The U.S. manager also called upon his past experiences, when his national side in 2001 faced must-win games late in qualifying and did what they needed to do to advance to the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, where the U.S. made a spirited run to the quarterfinals.
“So why are we confident?” Arena added. “I believe in our players. I believe in their skill, their will and their ability. And yes, I believe that we will win. Just as important, we have something our opponents don’t.
“We have you.
“We have fans of all ages. We have fans from all walks of life. We have fans who give everything they have and inspire us to do the same. And when the chips are down and when we need it the most, you are standing with us.”
Arena goes on to declare the players and fans will stand together in Orlando to accomplish their goal.
The U.S. enters looking to snap a four-game winless skid against Panama with three draws and a loss in a shootout in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Their last win against the Central American country came in the final game of 2014 World Cup qualifying, with a late U.S. victory allowing Mexico to make the fourth-place playoff ahead of Panama.
Panama sits in third place one point ahead of the U.S. and will face Costa Rica in its World Cup qualifying finale.