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Looking to the future

U.S. Soccer president Gulati dishes on what's ahead

Posted: Friday July 7, 2006 8:35AM; Updated: Friday July 7, 2006 10:17AM
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U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati (shown here in 1996) has a major decision to make as to the future of head coach Bruce Arena.
U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati (shown here in 1996) has a major decision to make as to the future of head coach Bruce Arena.
Otto Greule Jr./Allsport
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BERLIN -- Sunil Gulati is a busy man.

The president of U.S. Soccer, Gulati is about to enter his fifth month in charge. And while he's making the rounds of all the big FIFA events surrounding Sunday's World Cup final, he's also contemplating the future of the U.S. men's national team. These days that means deciding the fate of U.S. manager Bruce Arena.

Gulati and I sat down on Friday morning for a wide-ranging Q&A in which he addressed the U.S. team's performance in Germany, the upcoming Arena decision, a new outreach program in the Latino and African-American communities, potential U.S. participation in the Copa América and whether Freddy Adu will don a U.S. or Ghana jersey.

SI.com: Now that you've had two weeks to digest the U.S.' World Cup performance, do you have any new perspectives on it?

Gulati: No. The results are the same. The performance is the same. And personally, I was always of the view that we needed to reflect before making any judgments and doing too much analysis. So that's what we've been doing. There's nothing new from my perspective. We didn't play well. A number of players underperformed. But there are some other very good teams that went home early. So we've got to do better.

SI.com: So now that Italy has made the final -- and the U.S. is the only team that has taken any points from the Italians -- you're not putting any positive spin on that?

Gulati: I think one goes crazy if he uses the analysis of We tied them, and they did this. Because in about two iterations you run into a large number of inconsistencies. And if not that, then silliness. So either way, it doesn't make sense.

SI.com: The reaction to the U.S. performance in the American media has been pretty harsh, especially focusing on Arena. Fair or unfair?

Gulati: That they're reacting, or that they're reacting critically, or what they've actually said are three different things. That they're reacting is great. That's a positive. That they're reacting critically is perfectly acceptable. That's part of sports. Do I think some of it has been unfair? The answer's yes. I don't think it's an issue to criticize the team, the coach, the federation, me, anyone. But I think some of the criticism that's been directed at Bruce has become personal and inappropriate. He didn't become a different coach in two weeks than he had been in the previous eight years. I think his track record has been extraordinary.

Having said that, we were on the world stage. He's the head of the team, and we didn't get as far as any of us would have liked. So criticism is not inappropriate. I think some of it has gone beyond that -- and hasn't taken into consideration everything else he has done.

SI.com: Did any of that criticism bother you more than others?

Gulati: I haven't heard any of the TV commentary. I'm told that it was pretty harsh. And I think if what has been reported is what was said, then it was completely inappropriate, personal, hurtful, all of those things.

SI.com: What is the latest on Arena's status with U.S. Soccer?

Gulati: There's no change. What I announced minutes after the Ghana game is the same as today. We are not doing anything until after the World Cup. We'll sit down and talk next week. I'll meet with Bruce, and we'll figure out what happens next. I understand fully that 14 or 16 or 20 of the coaches from the World Cup have already resigned or been fired or whatever. We don't do things like that. We'll sit down and look at the whole thing.

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