LOS ANGELES – Every year that sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena has been in charge, he has put his own personal touch on the New England Revolution roster.
Heading into his third full campaign after joining mid-season in 2019, Arena has brought in many reliable and familiar faces from his past. Arena has recruited four former players he coached at the LA Galaxy, including defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez as well as midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Ema Boateng.
“It’s nice, you know,” said Boateng. “We’re old friends. All of us mainly stayed in touch so it’s good to finally be back on the same team.”
Boateng and DeLaGarza joined the Revs ahead of the 2021 season. With Lletget and Gonzalez joining a year later, the extended Galaxy reunion has been a welcomed surprise.
“I’ve had a couple of those moments,” said DeLaGarza. “I’ve had a lot of history [in LA] – on the field, off the field – so a lot of great memories and ones that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
“It’s surreal. One – being with Bruce. Two – being back with Omar. We never thought we’d play together again and now here we are as the old men on the team. I’m the oldest field player and I think he might be the second-oldest, so it’s just crazy where we’ve come from college to now.”
As Gonzalez and Lletget reunite with Arena and other familiar faces in 2022, it makes the transition to New England smoother as they have pre-existing locker room relationships and know exactly what to expect from Arena as a coach.
“Having familiar faces makes any kind of move that much easier,” said Gonzalez. “It's special to work with A.J., Sebastian Lletget and Bruce Arena again, Richie Williams and some of the staff so for me, it’s great.
“I just want to hit the ground running. Make them proud, make my teammates proud and make the fans proud.”
“Nothing’s changed,” said Gonzalez. “That’s what is special about coming back to work with Bruce. You know what you’re going to get. Straight to the point. Very clear. Very concise. With little jokes here and there, which is always great to lighten the mood and put smiles on people's faces.
“It’s really just a great environment to be a part of. He treats you as the professional you are, the grownup you are and expects you to show up and do your job.”
Over time, these four players have proven they can succeed in Arena’s system – whether in LA, with the U.S. Men’s National Team, the Revolution, or a combination of the three – and are eager to show their ability to do so this year in New England.
“I think [Bruce] even when I was a younger guy, he had his guys that he trusted,” said DeLaGarza. “They had all done fairly well for him.”
The tables have turned, and DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Lletget and Boateng have stepped into that coveted position.
“Hopefully we can bring another championship to the city of Boston, so that’s the most important thing, and you’ve got guys out here who just want to win and don’t really care what their role is,” said DeLaGarza.
“They just want to play some part in it. I think that makes for a special team and hopefully a special year.”
“Everyone saw what we did last year in the regular season – obviously we fell short in the playoffs – but it’s just reinforcement,” said Boateng. “We’re ready and hungry for more again and it’s good to have this squad together.
“I’m very much looking forward to what we can do this year.”