Francisco Rivero/ Contributing Writer
Kenny Arena strongly believes that his team can be a national contender and he has fostered this mindset not only in himself, but also in his players and his staff. He has made it a point that he will not let his team repeat the mistakes of past FIU teams.
“Even though the last five years have been tough, it doesn’t take away what FIU is capable of. I’ve been excited to start work ever since I’ve seen all the amazing talent in Florida,” Arena said.
Arena, 31, is no stranger to being around coaching; he is the son of the former US national team coach and current head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bruce Arena.
“He’s influenced me in the fact that he has a calm approach to the game most of the time, but he’s also very competitive and is not afraid to raise his voice to get his point across,” Arena said.
However, Arena’s father isn’t the only reason that he fell in love with the game of soccer.
He was once the ball boy for the University of Virginia, so he had a chance to not only see every game the team played, but to experience being on the field and in the locker room.
Arena’s playing journey began when he attended the University of Virginia, playing on the men’s soccer team from 1999 to 2002. There he learned more about the game he loved, and improved his own personal skills.
During his time at Virginia, Arena played for the United States Under 20 men’s national soccer team at the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship.
“The highest point in my career was getting to play in the Under 20 world cup in Argentina. Scoring a goal against that helped us get out of the first round while getting to represent my country, that was a great accomplishment,” Arena said.
In early 2003, the MetroStars selected Arena in the fourth round (32nd overall) in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft. The transition from college to professional soccer, he said, was the toughest thing he had to overcome.
“It’s a big jump that you make, the speed is different, the travel is different, and everything gets harder,” Arena said.
However, Arena was able to overcome this challenge, successfully making the transition despite the changes.
In 2006, Arena took the next step in his career by becoming a volunteer assistant coach with the University of Virginia and leading the Cavaliers to the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer semifinals. Over the next two years, he was hired as an assistant coach for George Mason University and University of California Los Angeles. He says that his time spent in each organization allowed him to learn how to be part of a coaching staff.
In 2012, Arena broke free of his assistant coaching role and was finally given the opportunity to lead his own team by agreeing to become the next head coach for the men’s soccer team at FIU.
“My goal is to make sure my players are at the top of their game and that we represent our university in the most professional way possible,” Arena said. “I’m here to improve one of the best teams in the country. I believe in FIU and I believe in Miami.”