United States' immigration policies are inspiring USMNT opponents - Arena
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- United States manager Bruce Arena says that while he believes soccer can be a catalyst for positive societal change, his focus remains on qualifying the Americans for the World Cup.
Speaking at a reporters' roundtable ahead of Tuesday's critical World Cup qualifier against Honduras, Arena was asked if he thought a strong run in the World Cup could help unite the U.S. as it struggles through a period of divisiveness.
"So you want us to win a World Cup, bring the country together, walk on water?" he joked. "What else do you want us to do?"
He added, "We'll get to that at the right time. Let's see if we can win a couple of games now to close out this year and maybe go to a World Cup -- and then solve all of the world's problems at that point."
Arena said he believes that current U.S. immigration policy is being used as a rallying point by the U.S. team's World Cup qualifying opponents, including Honduras.
"Our immigration policies are impacting people in Central America, right?" he said. "And there's probably a little bit of anger over that.
"Then your national sport gets a chance to play the U.S.; I'm sure that becomes very meaningful."
Arena pointed to the efforts of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt -- who has raised more than $17 million and helped distribute goods to the Houston area that has been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey -- as an example of what he hopes the game of soccer can do.
"I guess that is the beauty of this sport, that you can make some changes hopefully for the good," Arena said. "I think what J.J. Watt is doing in Houston is tremendous.
"It would be nice if we could do things like that. I'm not sure [the] example of the World Cup is something we're going to accomplish, but if we get there, maybe we'll try."
Arena added that, even in the current political climate, he has not talked politics with his players, though he expects there to be near consensus on some issues.
"Everyone is pretty supportive of free speech and not being restrictive of people coming to this country," he said. "We'd be almost unanimous on that. But I'm not around these guys all the time and listening to them talk politics.
"I don't think politics influences our national team program at all. I think we had a little bit of a discussion when we went to Mexico with the timing and all of that. But I don't think it impacts anybody."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.