FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Change is in the air, and you could feel it walking into Gillette Stadium on Thursday morning as Bruce Arena was officially introduced as the New England Revolution's sporting director and head coach.
It has been a jam-packed week for the entire club – for the players, coaches and front office staff – as a whirlwind of managerial turnover unfolded after the Revs parted ways with both former head coach Brad Friedel and former general manager Michael Burns in the span of a few days, filling both roles with Arena’s hire.
“[We’re] now being cemented having Bruce Arena take over as sporting director and head coach,” veteran Teal Bunbury said following Arena’s arrival. “I think that puts a lot of players’ minds at ease, and now it’s about acclimating to what his philosophies are going to be, what he wants from the guys and just getting caught up to speed and everybody being on board with what he’s going to bring to the table."
Arena’s résumé speaks for itself with the winning culture he has carried throughout his career. With five MLS Cup championships, three MLS Supporters' Shields and more than four decades of coaching experience, combined with his three Gold Cup titles and two World Cup appearances with the U.S. National Team, his successful coaching career has already demanded the respect and attention of the team.
“A lot of the players, we’re excited for the track record he brings,” said Scott Caldwell. “Five MLS Cups, it’s something we look forward to learning from his experience.”
As Arena starts a new chapter for the Revolution, his hire is only the beginning of the changes that will be made. Arena emphasized that he has his sights set on repeating his winning ways with the Revolution, and that starts now as all of the players will have a big test playing in front of the team’s new leader.
“It’s almost like another tryout,” said Bunbury, “I’m assuming he’s watched games and knows the majority of players – guys who have been in the league a while – and things like that, but you also want to perform well for him. It’s a new opportunity I think for a lot of players, as well, and we have to try to maximize our potential and grab hold of it and do the best we can.”
The team is now playing to impress their new coach, and players understand that the rest of the season will be something of a trial as Arena assesses how these players fit into his club vision and team philosophies.
“Short-term goal is just getting to know the team and letting them understand what I’m asking of them and trying to make it a better team, and also making decisions that are going to go past this season,” said Arena. “There are a lot of things that have to be done over the next six months and we’ll do that, but we certainly want to be much more competitive and try to position the club to earn a playoff spot.
“I know it won’t be easy, but you have seven spots in the East and we have some work to do. If we put together a string of wins, we get right back into the hunt.”
The Revs still have 21 games left to play in the 2019 campaign, currently sitting with a record of 3-8-2. As New England looks to build a bright future under Arena, the first step is elevating their remaining performances this season.
“[Bruce is] a winner in this league,” said Bunbury. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of players and opponents – I’m really excited.
“I know the guys, just talking amongst ourselves, we’re really looking forward to what he’s going to bring, but we also have to make sure that we are doing the job, as well. No matter who the coach is, we have to go out there on the field and perform.”
As the Revs look to impress and perform under the new Arena regime, it will be an opportunity for them to prove to both him and themselves what they can do.