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American soccer: They do it their way

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Even in the shadow of the U.S. soccer team’s collapse in this year’s World Cup, coach Bruce Arena speaks with calm assurance. After all, he brought a lackluster team that nobody ever took seriously to a No. 5 ranking in the world.

“One day, when we get it right and become the best,” he says, it will be because “we did it our way, no one else’s way.”

In that statement alone, you can see why Arena is a leader. In seven years as the U.S. coach, he had racked up a record-high 69 victories with the American national team.

And the world’s top squads have noticed. Imitation of the U.S. team’s intense preparation is one tip-off. Example: Germany hired a fitness trainer and a sports psychologist.

Alex Ferguson, coach of England’s powerful Manchester United team, calls Arena’s unrelenting determination “that American thing.”

Arena’s genius: understanding the mentality of players who basically receive no respect abroad and remain unknown at home.

“We’re not the most talented team in the world, by far,” says U.S. playmaker Landon Donovan. “But we are one of the most competitive, with the best spirit, the fittest, and with some of the best athletes.”

“I have more confidence in our players than they do in themselves,” Arena says.

—Adapted from “The Americans, Seriously,” Jere Longman, Play.

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