HANOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The U.S. national team is preparing to play its first World Cup qualifier in the New York City area in its history, and for Long Island native Bruce Arena, he doesn't see it being an issue even if there are some concerns Costa Rica could have good fan support Friday at Red Bull Arena.
"My sense is that we’re going to have good support," Arena said on Monday. "I think when we played Honduras in San Jose there was concern that there was going to be a big Honduran population attending the game and that wasn’t the case. We had a favorable crowd in Denver. I would anticipate it’s going to be favorable to us. We’re well aware of the fact that there are many Costa Ricans in the greater New York area, but that’s all part of the exercise."
"I don’t mind playing here, you’ve got a nice stadium," said Arena, who coached the New York Red Bulls in 2006 and 2007. "It’s probably a great venue for us to play in in terms of getting our players here from Europe and other parts of the country and Mexico, so that’s a plus."
As far as being a New Yorker playing in the area again, Arena didn't sound too sentimental when asked about what it was like playing in his home market again. He made sure to point out it wasn't quite the same as playing in his home state, which the U.S. hasn't played in since 1984.
"If you call New Jersey, New York," Arena quipped. "I’m from New York so we don’t accept New Jersey as being New York."
GOOD VIBES AS CAMP OPENS
The U.S. World Cup qualifying team went through a light training session on Monday, with several players still making their way to New Jersey from the weekend's action. The Seattle Sounders trio of Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan and Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe were all still en route from their match on Sunday.
The vibe in camp was a positive one, with a clear familiarity within the group that Arena feels should help the squad transition into preparations for the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
"There are 18 players here that played in the Gold Cup, so we’ve been together in different ways over the last couple of months," Arena said. "And the guys who weren’t at the Gold Cup we stayed in touch with. That kid Christian Pulisic I haven’t forgotten about. I drop a note to him every now and then."
ARENA ON TIM CHANDLER
As predictable as the squad was that Arena chose for the upcoming qualifiers, one player who was a bit of a surprise omission was Timmy Chandler. DeAndre Yedlin's injury and Eric Lichaj's recent struggles for playing time figured to open the door for Chandler's first camp under Arena, but the U.S. coach ultimately chose to go with Lichaj along with Graham Zusi as his right-back options.
"This is what we think was the best roster to bring into camp," Arena said when asked about Chandler's absence.
When asked if Lichaj's lack of playing time at Nottingham Forest was a concern, Arena made it clear he didn't think it was. "[Lichaj] played 120 minutes on Tuesday," Arena said, referring to Lichaj's start in Nottingham Forest's Carabao Cup victory over Newcastle United.