Former U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena was hired Monday as coach and general manager of David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy, who haven't won a game in more than two months.
Arena called his new job a challenge, but found a lot to like about the Galaxy.
"As a coach, I look at this roster, we have Landon Donovan and David Beckham as a starting point. That's fabulous," Arena said, his face still glistening with sweat following his first Galaxy practice. "I think we have a good group of players to join in and make this a good team."
Beckham and Donovan, along with Carlos Ruiz, were absent because of national team duty. So the Galaxy definitely will be without Beckham for Arena's first game, Thursday night against the Chicago Fire at the Home Depot Center, and Donovan and Ruiz probably won't play since they have a match in Ruiz's native Guatemala on Wednesday.
The 57-year-old Arena, a New York native known for biting sarcasm, addressed the team before practice and has a message.
"That the team is not about Landon Donovan and David Beckham; it's about all of us. It's we, it's us, it's not I and it's not me," he said. "If we work together as a group, we can achieve things."
In his dual role, Arena takes over for Ruud Gullit, who resigned as coach last Monday for personal reasons, and president and general manager Alexi Lalas, who was fired the same day.
Los Angeles' Greg Vanney, who played under Arena with the national team, said the new coach made a quick impression at his initial practice, stressing that improvement is needed on defense.
"He has an understanding of our strengths as a team and, more importantly, our weaknesses," said the 33-year-old Vanney, one of the league's most experienced defenders. "We stepped out on the training field today and, unlike any training session we've had all year, we immediately addressed those and we worked on them.
"Our mentality can't be that we can outscore the other team 5-4; we need all 11 of us to think defense. We have to give away nothing so that we can give our special players _ who are special _ opportunities to get their chances and win the game for us."
The Galaxy, in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight year, are 6-8-6 with four losses and four ties in their last eight matches. Cobi Jones, in his first year as an assistant coach, guided the team to a 2-2 tie against Chivas USA last Thursday night.
Jones, a former national team player who will remain a Galaxy assistant, said Arena "is going to bring a standard of quality. He's going to define his expectations from the guys and demand that they meet those expectations."
Longtime Arena assistant Dave Sarachan rejoined him as associate head coach with the Galaxy.
"My wife reminded me that it is 24 years this week when I first started working with Bruce back at UVA (University of Virginia)," Sarachan said. "To be back together is really great."
Arena was dismissed as coach of the national team after the Americans were eliminated in the first round of the 2006 World Cup. He was hired as coach of the New York Red Bulls that summer, then was forced out last November after they were eliminated from the first round of the MLS playoffs for the second straight year.
Arena has a 77-51-10 regular-season record and a 14-5-2 postseason mark In MLS, leading D.C. United to two titles. He was the most successful head coach in national team history with a 71-30-29 record that included a quarterfinal finish at the 2002 World Cup.