Bruce Arena, coach of the U.S. soccer team and the most successful coach in the history of American soccer, embarked on his World Cup-bound career in Tacoma.
In 1976, at the age of 24, Arena coached the University of Puget Sound men. He also played his one and only season as a professional in 1976 as a backup goalie for the Tacoma Tides, an outdoor team that lasted one year.
Arena's UPS team finished 5-7 in his only season as the Loggers' coach.
Tacoma resident Earl Nausid was team captain under Arena at UPS.
"He was very fit, very strong, a very intense motivator," Nausid said. "He had a powerful aura and he was a powerful man. When he asked you to do something, you just did it and you didn't doubt the reasons why."
Zeke Schuldt was the athletic trainer at UPS from 1970-2005, and was trainer for the Tides.
"Let's just say he was right out of college. I would say that he was cocky. But I guess you could probably say that he was self-assured," Schuldt said. "He was not a half-stepper."
"He was a tremendous athlete, very determined and real outgoing," said Carl Milford, who played with Arena with the Tides and also worked out with UPS. "He was a really good coach. He was very charismatic and popular with the players. He did a lot for that program."
The Tides, though a shoestring outfit in a shoestring league, fielded a team of all-stars and well-credentialed foreign players.
Arena boasted an impressive record coming out of Cornell. He won most valuable defensive player honors in the 1972 NCAA finals and was an All-American as a lacrosse midfielder.
Between graduating in 1973 and coming to Tacoma in 1976, Arena played professional lacrosse in Montreal and was goalie for the U.S. national soccer team in a 2-0 loss to Israel in a friendly match. A ball signed by Arena is on display at the Shanaman Sports Museum, along with other Tides memorabilia, at the Tacoma Dome.
Stan Naccarato was the Tides' general manager and later was GM of the indoor Tacoma Stars.
"I remember him as a team player," Naccarato said of Arena. "He was a smart kid. I thought he had a coach's mind, though I can't really say why. I thought he had that sort of technique in dealing with people."
Arena's coach at Cornell, Dan Wood, crossed the country to coach the Tides and recruited Arena, his former player and briefly his assistant at Cornell. Arena's controversial no-nonsense style on and off the field may derive in part from the leadership of Wood, who was 29 when he coached the Tides.
There was no coddling of players with sparkling resumes, Schuldt said, a style Arena picked up from Wood.
After his one year in Tacoma, Arena returned to the East Coast, taking over as coach at the University of Virginia in 1978.
Nausid, the captain of Arena's UPS team, said he did not imagine the coach would reach the soccer stratosphere.
"I am proud to have played for him in his early days," Nausid said.