Dave Sarachan talks to a player during U.S. national team camp in January. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
This story about Dave Sarachan and Bruce Arena was written and posted in December 2014.
By Michael Lewis
CARSON, Calif. — Lewis had his Clark.
Abbott had his Costello.
Torre had his Zimmer.
And Arena has his Sarachan.
As in Bruce Arena, the head coach of the LA Galaxy, and Dave Sarachan, the associate coach of the Major League Soccer powerhouse.
They are arguably the most successful dynamic coaching duo that has graced the sidelines of an American soccer field – at three distinct levels.
They have been together for four separate tenures at three different levels in soccer, with success, on and off for three decades. They worked together at the University of Virginia (college) for five years, at D.C. United (professional) for one year, with the U.S. National Team (international) for four years (reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup) and at the Galaxy (pro) for the last seven years. Between those team-ups, the 60-year-old Sarachan has taken the reins of his own team, at Cornell for 10 years and at the Chicago Fire for five years.
“It’s very unique,” Sarachan said of the long-term relationship. “As people have reminded me, coaches have assistant coaches and partnerships in Europe with one another last a long time. Over here, I don’t think there has been anything that has been quite the duration of the success with the two of us in the various stops along the way.”
At first glance, you might think how they can get along because they are so different. But that just might be part of the secret of their success.
Arena can be brusque and to the point, sometimes being too honest.
Sarachan is more laid back.
Arena can be hilarious and Sarachan certainly has his moments when he has had to crack the whip.
“He probably understands me. It probably makes it click,” Arena said with a smile and a chuckle after practice outside the StubHub Center on Thursday. “It’s like being married. You kind of not always on the same page all the time and you may not always be in love, but you kind of understand each other and you persevere through good times and the bad times.”
There have been many more good times than not, especially recently. Since Arena took over the Galaxy in 2008, Sarachan has been providing advice and support. The Galaxy is gunning for its third MLS Cup crown in four years against the New England Revolution at the StubHub Center at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.
Asked what makes that relationship click, Sarachan replied, “It’s a complex answer because we each bring something different to the table. We each have different personalities. Maybe where Bruce at times – actually someone used this expression — Bruce at times can be pretty black and white — I sometimes fill in with color a little bit. I think that kind of relationship where I have a personality that I don’t get offended if he gets credit for something or I get credit for something. We just sort of do our work, make sure all the bases get covered. It’s not always easy, but that’s all part of a relationship in any form or fashion.
“We do have a clear understanding of what we bring to the table and I think in my role, I pick my spots. There are times when we close the door, maybe go after some things and challenge one another, which is good. But in terms of the symbiotic relationship within a locker room and how we are perceived and how we work is important. Over the years, we give each other some strength.”
It was Arena’s turn.
Asked about Sarachan’s strengths, Arena quickly replied, “He can dunk a basketball,” alluding to his associate coach’s 5-foot-9 height.
Then the former Franklin Square, N.Y. resident got serious.
“His strengths are that he understands his job and he likes to work on the field with the players and has a really, good positive tone every day and that helps in the locker room and helps on the field,” Arena said.
Given the success of the partnership and the team, Sarachan doesn’t mind being the No. 2, but he admitted if the opportunity to run the show after emerged again, he certainly would be interested.
“I do miss certain elements running my own campaign and program, having done it at this level,” he said. “Do I want to be an associate head coach for the rest of my career? Not really. If another opportunity came, I would still like another run at running my own program. At the same time I have no complaints in terms of this organization and my role, the whole package. At this stage, I’ve got some years left as far as the window and if an opportunity came I’d consider it.”
But right now, the No. 1 priority for the No. 2 man is helping the No. 1 guy find the right strategy and make the right moves for the Galaxy to win another championship and add another win and trophy to their historic soccer coaching partnership.