FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – While last year’s New England Revolution roster experienced "The Bruce Arena Effect” firsthand as they surged to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final, several offseason additions are eager to witness it themselves in 2021, or in some cases, to embrace it once again.
For both A.J. DeLaGarza and Ema Boateng they know full well Arena's influence having played under him with the LA Galaxy. Reuniting with the winningest coach in MLS history, not to mention the Revolution's championship potential, were instrumental reasons why the duo joined New England.
“I think Bruce obviously had a big part in me making the decision to come here, just knowing him for eight years,” said DeLaGarza, who won three titles (2011, 2012 and 2014) with Arena at the LA Galaxy.
“I came to this team because they have everything you need to be a champion. You look from the goalies up to the forwards, and you have some of the best players in this league.”
The talented roster paired with Arena’s top-tier coaching – with five MLS Cup titles under his belt – could be the perfect recipe for success for New England in 2021.
“[Bruce’s] knowledge of the game is just so vast,” said Boateng, who played under Arena for the Galaxy in 2016. “He knows the league better than I think any coach in the league, because he's been coaching so many times and won so many games.
“He just knows how to analyze opponents. He doesn't focus too much on all the other stuff like outside noise, teams, everything that's going on. He does a good job of blocking it out.”
Not only is Arena strong at analyzing opponents, but also his own roster. Newcomer Wilfrid Kaptoum said that this is a fundamental characteristic that every player – new, young or a veteran – sees in Arena as their head coach.
“He’s a great observer and he’s honest with his players,” Kaptoum said via translator. “It’s great to know that the coach always has his eyes on you and he’ll tell you the truth. That helps players understand what they’re doing right or wrong so players can correct those things and improve. I can tell Bruce is a coach that has a lot of experience.
“He doesn’t speak a lot but he speaks the truth, and that’s what I like about him.”
After being with the squad through the first week of preseason, DeLaGarza sees early signs of how "The Bruce Arena Effect” has been in the works for the Revolution. In fact, as Arena continues to build a stronger team, DeLaGarza sees a resemblance to when Arena mentored him at the start of his career at the Galaxy in 2009.
“[Bruce] knows this league inside and out,” said DeLaGarza. “It’s different than any league in this world … Here you have to kind of figure it out with domestic players, with bringing in the right players, because you only have three DPs [Designated Players], so you have to be very smart.
“You look at this team and there’s very good DPs and then very good young, quality players in [Henry] Kessler and [Tajon] Buchanan and [Matt] Turner, and the list goes on. There are so many guys that are younger. I look back at 2009, and Bruce helped move me along as a rookie and a young player.”
After arriving midseason in 2019 and navigating the awkwardness of the interrupted 2020 campaign, Arena said that 2021 will be the first full year he has had with a roster in New England. With the foundation Arena has built, the respect he has earned as a coach and his winning mentality, it could be a blueprint for a historic Revolution campaign.
“I think we've built a roster that is stronger than we've had in previous years,” said Arena. “Hopefully, that adds up to some more success during the regular season.”