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The Bruce Arena era starts on a high note.

On Sunday, the New England Revolution took the field for the first time under the coaching of MLS and USMNT legend Bruce Arena. Arena and the Revs bested the LA Galaxy 2-1, improving the club’s record to 2-0-2 since they relieved Brad Friedel from his coaching duties.

Things got off to a scary start, as Luis Caicedo vacated the pitch momentarily so the medical staff could look at him after he was elbowed on the top of the head by Zlatan Ibrahimović in the 11th minute. Caicedo would eventually come back on sporting a skull cap.

Both New England and Los Angeles were able to create multiple chances throughout the first half, but the Revs were the only one to end up on the score sheet. In the 45th minute, Carles Gil found Cristian Penilla on the left. The Ecuadorian then hit a right-footed shot that slipped past David Bingham.

The Revolution’s lead grew to two in the 60th minute when Teal Bunbury grabbed his first league goal since August of 2018. Gil played a nice through pass that Bunbury finished, which made amends for his big miss during the game’s opening minutes.

A collusion in the 73rd minute caused Revs fans to hold their breath as Brad Knighton and Andrew Farrell collided. Gil also looked to be in some discomfort. Eventually, all parties regained composure and play on.

The Revs used their first substitution when Juan Fernando Caicedo would come on in the 82nd minute replacing Diego Fagundez.

The home side got a goal back two minutes later when Ibrahimovic pulled off a little magic. A long throw-in ultimately found its way to the Designated Player, who set himself up for a bicycle kick. The shot beat Knighton, which made for a testy ending to the game.

As the final whistle sounded, Bruce Arena secured his 203rd career regular season win and the Revs picked up their first road win this season.

One notable shift in the Arena era was that Penilla was the man taking corner kicks. In previous games, that duty was primarily held by Carles Gil. That, along with better overall teamwork, were small changes that should be watched in the coming weeks.

There were many positives seen in Arena’s Revolution debut that could help turn around the season.

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Bruce Arena is getting the band back together.

Richie Williams and Curt Onalfo have joined the New England Revolution as Bruce Arena begins to assemble his technical staff.

Williams left his post as the head coach of Loudoun United FC of the USL Championship to reunite with Arena. He will serve as an assistant coach, bringing with him 15 years of coaching experience. He was Arena’s assistant coach with the USMNT from 2017-18, as well as the New York Red Bulls from 2006-07.

“Richie and I have a relationship that dates back nearly 30 years, and I have the utmost confidence that he will bring the same energy, enthusiasm, and expertise of the game to the Revolution that he has throughout each stop of his coaching and playing career,” Arena said in the press release. “I look forward to bringing him onboard and getting him integrated into club as quickly as possible.”

Onalfo will be the Revolution’s technical director and will report directly to Arena. Onalfo has worked with Arena in the past, as he was his assistant coach with the Galaxy from 2011-14 and the head coach of the club’s USL side, LA Galaxy II, from 2014-16.

“I am very pleased to add Curt to our technical staff as we continue to build the soccer organization in New England,” Arena said. “Having worked with Curt for many years, I know his vast knowledge and experience in the game will make him an immediate asset to the club.”

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Five season ago, the New England Revolution lost an MLS Cup Final in Los Angeles, and it’s been downhill ever since. The climb back up begins today, back where it all started.

Alright, let’s get this part out of the way first.

A lot of New Englanders might still mad at Bruce Arena. Yes, the 2018 World Cup qualifiying campaign with the United States is probably part of that, but some of that wasn’t his own doing. No, I’m talking about something else:

#MLS | #NERevs hace oficial que Bruce Arena, el técnico más ganador de la MLS, es su nuevo Director Deportivo y técnico principal del equipo. pic.twitter.com/GWCxQnDUkU

— Deporte Total USA (@DEPORTETOTALUSA) May 14, 2019

I hate this photo. I hate the LA Galaxy, especially that 2014 team. I think to immediately get in the good graces of the Revolution fans, which shouldn’t be hard, we’re a fairly ecstatic and excited bunch right now, would be to recreate this photo with a regional beer. Sam Adams, Narragansett, just about anything should do the trick. It would have been one of the most epic introductory press conferences ever, but I digress.

Let’s begin rationalizing the last several weeks in New England Revolution history. First, I was stunned the Revs actually sacked Brad Friedel and GM Michael Burns. Not that it wasn’t deserved, because it was, but because the Krafts actually realized their soccer team was going backwards.

And make no mistake, even when ownership does the right thing, they still screw it up. Mike Burns may tout his tenure with the Revs as a success, and there are things he should be proud of, but it will be remembered for the abysmal 7 minute presser he had after organization let Friedel go. A situation that should have been avoided if the Revs had properly set up the post-Friedel staff before firing him. If we assume Arena was the first call the Krafts made, sacking Burns days after his USMNT roommate he hired as head coach is a fitting end to dismal era in team history.

Mike Burns didn’t deserve to be trotted out in front of to answer questions about his job status. But let the circumstances surrounding those firings be a lesson to how far this organization has fallen. The Revolution simply do not fire people in the middle of the season, let alone in May. Additional signings were needed to improve this team in the offseason and before the deadline and despite promises, those signings never materialized and things kept getting worse. It was clear to everyone that Brad Friedel needed to go, and the move was made.

After Friedel was let go and interim head coach Mike Lapper took over, I said all it would take to improve the team was to stop losing by 4 goals, and to the surprise of no one, the Revolution are fully capable of doing that. I refuse to believe this roster is one of the two or three worst in MLS, but that doesn’t mean they’re a playoff team with with a first rate coaching staff.

Ownership could have handed the reigns to Arena back in 2018, after the USMNT’s failed WCQ campaign with Arena unable to salvage a spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Maybe that’s for the the best, maybe this team needed to sink a little lower than they already had at the end of Jay Heaps’ tenure. Let us not forget that Heaps and Burns did rebuild a fairly solid core from 2012-13, and the Revs 3rd place finish in 2013 remains one of the most impressive seasons in team history. But it’s been all downhill since 2014 and that blame does rest solely on the coaching staffs shoulders.

The Revs organization took several years to replace centerback AJ Soares and the backline has been unsettled ever since. Every day Andrew Farrell plays centerback is testament to their inability to find a suitable replacement at that position, though not for lack of trying or spending in recent years. This organization cast aside players like Jose Goncalves, Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, Kelyn Rowe, Kei Kamara, and Kriztian Nemeth instead of building and adding talent around them.

Regardless of how fans feel about the individual situations around those players, the fact is the team never added enough talent to replace most of those players. They still haven’t had a holding mid tandem as good as Jones and Scott Caldwell in the last five years, they still haven’t figured out who their best striker/winger combination is, and they still have one of the most unsettled backlines in the league.

Carles Gil looks like he’s good at soccer, but Cristian Penilla has all but disappeared in 2019. For every addition or subtraction the Revs make, nothing seems to work on the field consistently. The only constant the past few years has been the front office and “The Patriot Way” which everyone knows I can not stand. You are not the Patriots despite the fact you share a stadium with them. You have five MLS Cup losses, not six Super Bowl wins. You are not a team where players will take pay cuts to try and win a championship, you are an MLS 1.0 team that is on national television maybe twice a year in a Top 10 US media market.

Which is why the hiring of Bruce Arena makes far more sense than it should and why Arena taking over today in Los Angeles is beyond perfect. Bruce Arena helped reshaped the LA Galaxy in the beginning of the DP era and in a little over a year, starting in 2009, the Galaxy were back to being a force in MLS. I’m not going to bring up 2014 again, but Arena’s resume in LA speaks for itself: 4 MLS Cup Finals, 3 Championships, 3 Western Conference regular season titles, and two Supporter’s Shields. Four of the last five times the Galaxy missed the playoffs, were years that Arena didn’t coach the team. The other year (2008) was his first season.

I’m not saying that Arena is going to have that type of immediate turn-arond or success with New England, because there are still significant obstacles. Arena is going to have to convince the Krafts to start writing some checks to bring in new players or extend current ones. The question of player development is still an issue compared to the rest of the league, as the Revs still have no official USL affiliate or team. Obviously the new Foxboro training facility is going to be wonderful and so is that SSS if/when it happens, but right now there’s no better person to lead the Revs out of MLS 1.0.

Because Bruce Arena has already done this once. He’s navigated all the roster rules, draft classes, and international signings into one of the most dominant runs in MLS history. Even if Arena doesn’t have the same winning success as he did in LA with multiple trophies, the Arena era in New England will hopefully be remembered as the stretch where the Revolution joined the modern DP era of MLS. The fact that Arena needs to do this a decade after he did it with the Galaxy remains a detriment to the Revs organization and especially its owners.

So many people deserved better from this organization, and there are still a lot of people the team did dive chances too like Heaps. Taylor Twellman’s number should be officially retired by the team since no one will ever wear it again. Matt Reis should have a statue somewhere on the grounds let alone his name in the ring of honor, if not for his decade of play with the team, than for his efforts saving the live of his father in law at the Boston Marathon Bombings. Pat Noonan, Steve Ralston and Shalrie Joseph have been successful coaches in MLS and elsewhere but not New England. Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz should be remembered as two of the greats in New England, not Atlanta. So many greats from the Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner era, including that iconic coaching duo, deserved better.

JoGo deserved better, Lee deserved better, Kelyn deserved better, Jermaine deserved better, Diego deserved better. They deserved an organization that not only were stingy with them individually, but stingy with their teammates around them. Rather than making signings and improving teams that they could have starred on, this organization failed them by keeping the status quo.

Then there are the team employees who have dedicated their careers to this organization. Brad Feldman and Jeff Lemieux who have been with the team for 15 and 10 years respectively, deserve to cover a championship winning team. The sales department who has to put up with the very vocal fanbase every time an SSS rumor pops up and find ways to sell tickets to a city 45 minutes away deserve medals and raises.

In order to begin fixing the team in the present, this organization needs to correct the mistakes of it’s past. And it’s fitting that we go back to the place where the Revs downward trend began, being led by the man who was on the other sideline. The soccer gods can indeed write good scripts.

Over the last five years this team has slowly descended into the depths of the MLS basement. As talent has left or been traded away, simply not enough of it has been signed in return and it shows. The Patriot Way of promoting from within, both on the sidelines and in the starting lineup, can no longer compete in MLS. You can’t let guys like Soares and Nguyen go, replace them with Farrell and Fagundez, and not improve the roster around them to fill the holes the replacements are leaving behind.

Which is a shame, because a lot of those replacements are some of my favorite players. Today is the six year anniversary of one of my favorite goals ever - Chad Barrett “Against his former club!”

HIGHLIGHTS: NE Revolution vs LA Galaxy | June 2nd, 2013 - YouTube

I will always love that goal, and Jalil Anibaba celebrating blocked shots, and Daigo “Player X” Kobayashi, JeVaughn Watson, and Andy Dorman for just being around because those players can be the backbone of a tremendous roster. That you can combine a ragtag team of youngsters with a few veteran players can absolutely take on Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane (who was absent from that above 5-0 drubbing six years ago). For all the slights about the roster the bast few years, those type of veteran signings will always be great in my book.

But sadly, those kind of players will not catch the national attention that this team needs. We will always be slighted when the national MLS TV schedule comes out. We will always be slighted when the Boston media forgets to include the Revs finals appearances in the “Boston Big 4” sports graphics. We will always be slighted when everyone refers to us as “the Buffalo Bills of MLS” lest everyone forgets how near impossible it is to get to three or four straight title games. I will always be slighted when the Revs 2008 SuperLiga title is not included in the team’s accomplishments or finals appearances by everyone else.

And yet it won’t take much to turn these slights around.

This fanbase believed once that goals do not need to come from a multi-million dollar DP up front. That you can beat a Champions League, EPL and La Liga winning striker on a cold day in New Jersey with a little Stanky Leg, some Swag, some Go, and something not blue, not green, but somewhere in between. We believed that when you need a goal down 1-0 in an MLS Cup final, it’s not your MVP candidate or DP that will save the day - but your converted left back selected a supplemental and basically 5th round draft pick from nearby Wellesley.

This fanbase believed once that MVP candidates can be signed off the waiver wire. That a starting lineup can be anchored by not just several first round draft picks but draft picks in general. That a montage of shielding the ball out of bounds for 30 yards at a time is more glorious that all the highlights of every 30 yard goal ever. That the real bulldog of the midfield is not the USMNT World Cup hero DP you got in a blind draw, but the 5’9’’ homegrown from down the road in Braintree.

We believed this all once because five years ago that was the organization and team we fell in love with all over again. We believed that money isn’t the only thing that goes into a championship but it does help you get over the top.

We believed in all that once. Make us believe it again.

In Bruce We Trust.

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A gallery of photos from the Revs’ 1-1 draw with DC United

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This is still pretty awesome even if it doesn’t happen.

UPDATE (4:15pm) Not so fast my friends...

It appears I might have jumped the gun at Jeff’s original tweet from this morning as Bruce Arena led training today:

Bruce Arena said he still hasn't decided whether he'll make his debut on the sidelines this weekend in LA, where he coached for eight years: "If I think I'm going to be a distraction to the team, I won't do it." #NERevs

— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) May 28, 2019

So while Arena hasn’t decided if he will make the trip to Los Angeles, he is starting the process of acclimating with his new team. I’d expect a mini-preseason during the Gold Cup break in which the new coaching staff will have several weeks to install a new system and evaluate players.

Also in that updated tweet thread from Lemieux is no concrete update on the status of interim head coach Mike Lapper on remaining on the staff, with Arena stating “Mike will speak for Mike. I don’t want to do that. He’s done a very good job here.” It’s an odd quote that seems to leave open every possibility for Lapper to stay and/or pursue other opportunities if he wants.

(Original Story at 12:45pm) The Bruce Arena era for the New England Revolution will officially begin this weekend when the Revs go cross country to face Arena’s old team, the Los Angeles Galaxy according to Revs online host Jeff Lemeiux:

The transition into the Bruce Arena era takes another big step today - Arena will lead training as he assumes head coaching responsibilities ahead of this weekend's trip to visit his former club, the LA Galaxy. #NERevs

— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) May 28, 2019

Most fans will remember that one trip to LA late in 2014 that I will not mention by name, where Arena was the head coach of the aforementioned Galaxy. It seems an appropriate place to begin his sideline tenure with the Revs despite the odd schedule in June due to the international break.

Arena will take the sidelines with a familiar face alongside him, as former assistant with the USMNT Richie Williams joined Arena’s staff from his then current post as DC United affiliate Loudoun United’s head coach.

It’s also a very good time to mention that interim head coach Mike Lapper’s tenure ends undefeated with a 1-0-2 record and just two goals conceded. Hopefully Lapper remains on the staff for at least the rest of the year and even beyond that with the way the team responded to him in particular these last few weeks. Results and even style of play aside, Coach Lapper will leave a tremendous impression and breathed a sense of new life and fun into the bulk of the locker room which was sorely missing.

Bruce Arena now begins the incredible task of getting the Revolution back into the playoffs, something that might not be able to happen this year, but we have to start somewhere. The Revs have 19 games left and sit in 11th place in the East on 13 points, four points behind 7th place Toronto FC who have two games in hand as well.

Arena’s first home games at Gillette Stadium will come after the CONCACAF Gold Cup international break against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, June 26th and the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, June 29th.

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The Revs are playing safe soccer.

The New England Revolution tied D.C. United 1-1 on Saturday night. Juan Agudelo scored the opener in the 61st minute, just five minutes after Matt Turner was shown a red card. Wayne Rooney brought the game back to level terms when he converted a penalty.

Here are three thoughts from the game:

  1. The Revs are playing safe soccer. Since naming Mike Lapper as their interim head coach, the Revolution are 1-0-2, which is a record built on conservative play. In search of a reset after leaking goals during the final days of the Friedel Era, the Revs have been focused on being sound defensively. Once they win the ball, they look to counter. While possession can be a misleading stat, it’s telling that the Revs have lost the possession battle in their last three games (they had 32.3% vs. D.C.). It’s effective—not pretty—soccer. The first half of Saturday’s game was particularly mundane.
  2. It was nice to see Brad Knighton on his bobblehead night. I once wrote an article about the curse associated with Revs bobblehead night. Time after time, a Revs player suffered a misstep around the time of his special night. That was almost the case on Saturday, as “Jedi Knighton” played reserve to Turner. However, the veteran was called into action after Turner took out Rooney. Knighton entered and immediately made a big save. Later, he got his hand on Rooney’s penalty, though he wasn’t able to keep it from going into the back of the net. I’m a big fan of Turner, but was admittedly a bit happy to see Knighton come on during Saturday’s game.
  3. Video Review shouldn’t be overused. The moment of controversy came in the 87th minute when Brandon Bye was ruled to have committed a handling offense inside the box. The ball did hit Bye’s hand but the defender had little time to react to the close-range shot. I would have no complaints if referee David Gantar called it on the field, but I don’t think the play needed to go to Video Review. In my opinion, there wasn’t a clear and obvious error because there’s room to argue if Bye had enough time to react.
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Revs head north of the border to take on the Impact

After an impressive 3-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes and a star-studded charity match against Chelsea F.C., the New England Revolution traveled north of the border to face off against conference rivals, the Montreal Impact.

With the same lineup, Revs interim coach Mike Lapper looked to build off the momentum generated from last week’s match against San Jose.

Overall, this match was a hard fought one that included multiple fouls and bookings for both the Revolution and Montreal.

The first booking came in the 21st minute as Revolution midfielder Luis Caicedo was booked with a yellow card.

Revs came close to notching the first goal in the 24th minute but Impact goaltender Evan Bush leaped to snag Carles Gil’s corner kick before Revs attackers could get a touch on it.

Soon after, Montreal came close to scoring via Urruti’s touch, which slipped past goalie Matt Turner but defender Jalil Anibaba cleared the ball before it crossed the line.

In the 35th minute, Lapper put rookie defender DeJuan Jones in as Edgar Castillo left the match.

Jones made an instant impact as he was able to make an 80-yard run which involved a through pass to himself to get past Montreal’s Zakaria Diallo. His shot didn’t get past Bush.

As the half time whistle sounded, both clubs went into the locker room and assessed what to do in the second half in order to pull off the victory.

In the 52nd minute, Andrew Farrell was shown a yellow card after committing a foul.

Tajon Buchanan replaced Diego Fagundez in the 60th minute. Fagundez, who has not had a strong 2019 season, was visibly upset with the performance as he walked off the pitch and headed towards the Revolution bench.

The Revs came knocking at the door in the 64th minute as both Penilla and Bunbury came close to scoring the game’s opener.

Juan Agudelo would become the third Rev to receive a yellow card in the 66th minute after Juan committed a foul.

Prior to the final whistle, Wilfried Zahibo came on to replace Teal Bunbury. It was a smart decision by Lapper considering Zahibo scored three times against Montreal in the 2018 MLS season.

The substitution didn’t pay off, however, as the Revs tied the Impact 0-0.

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Revolution and Chelsea F.C. excite the Gillette Stadium crowd.

On Wednesday, May 15th, the New England Revolution took the pitch at Gillette Stadium as they hosted English Premier League club Chelsea F.C. in a charitable match to fight antisemitism.

A total of 27,329 people packed into Gillette Stadium to witness this extravagant sporting event for a good cause.

Chelsea wasted no time getting on the score sheet as midfielder Ross Barkley took advantage of a poor clearance from Jalil Anibaba before whizzing the ball past Revs goalie Matt Turner. This put Chelsea up 1-0 in the 3rd minute of the match.

The Blues would go on to take a 2-0 lead in the 29th minute when defender Davide Zappacosta was able to find forward Olivier Giroud inside the 6-yard box. Giroud got his head on it to put a second goal past Turner.

Barkley capped the scoring in the 62nd minute as Gonzalo Higuain’s shot from Willian’s corner kick ricocheted off Barkley and past Revs goalie Brad Knighton.

Although the Revs lost 3-0, the match gave fans an opportunity to see old faces, such as Gabriel Somi, Brian Wright, and Zach Herivaux, and new ones, such as Nicholas Firmino, who made his Revolution debut in the match. More importantly, the event raised an estimated $4 million dollars which will be donated to a total of 18 different organizations to battle hate crimes and antisemitism.

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A gallery of photos from the Revs’ 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes

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It is a rumor no more, the New England Revolution will announce Arena as head coach/sporting director on Thursday, May 16th.

The New England Revolution have made yesterday’s rumor official, quickly announcing this morning that former LA Galaxy and United States MNT head coach Bruce Arena will take over in not just the coaching role, but as sporting director as well.

“Bruce is one of the most successful coaches in American soccer history, and we feel his commitment to excellence, track record of winning championships in Major League Soccer, as well as his success at the international level, makes him the best person to bring the Revolution back to MLS Cup contention,” Revolution Investor/Operator Robert Kraft said in the press release. “We have known Bruce dating back to the advent of MLS, and we have full confidence that he will raise the level of our club to the standard we all expect and demand.”

Per the release, the current technical/coaching staff will remain in place until a date is set for Arena to begin his duties. This means interim head coach Mike Lapper will at least coach the friendly against Chelsea on Wednesday and likely the road game on Saturday in Montreal.

Arena will be introduced to the media in a press conference, streamed live on Revolutionsoccer.net, alongside Revolution President Brian Bilello in the Gillette Stadium media workroom on Thursday, May 16 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

“It was evident when talking with Bruce that we share a vision for the future of the Revolution and we look forward to having him oversee our soccer organization,” Revolution President Brian Bilello also said in the team press release. “We believe that now is the time for a change in leadership and there is no one better suited to usher in a new era of success in New England.”

Arena’s coaching resume is perhaps unequaled in the modern or MLS era of US Soccer. In 14 seasons with DC United, the New York Red Bulls, and Los Angeles Galaxy, Arena has won a record five MLS Cup titles, three MLS Supporters’ Shields, seven MLS conference championships, one U.S. Open Cup title, and the 1998 CONCACAF Champion’s Cup with DC United before the rebranded regional Champion’s League era began.

In a combined decade coaching the USMNT, Arena led the US to two World Cups, including a quarterfinal finish in 2002 in Korea/Japan and three Gold Cup titles in 2002, 2005, and 2017. He is the all-time USMNT leader in wins with 81 and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010. Arena also won 5 NCAA Championships and 6 ACC Conference titles over 18 years as the head coach of the University of Virginia.

There is no debating Arena’s resume and with the Revs in need of a massive rebuild, and if given the resources, there might not be a better person for the job. The Galaxy had some middling seasons right before Arena took over in 2008, and in just one year he had the Galaxy at the Top of the West for three straight seasons from 2009-11 (including two Supporter’s Shields) and then three MLS Cups in four years in 2011, 2012, and we’re not going to talk about that last one.

We’ll see if Bruce can have a similar impact on the fortunes of the Revolution. In Bruce we trust, welcome Coach Arena.

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