FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The most successful coach in American soccer history took his rightful place atop Major League Soccer’s all-time wins list on Saturday afternoon, as Bruce Arena secured regular-season victory No. 241 to surpass the legendary Sigi Schmid.
Arena – who also has an MLS record five MLS Cup trophies and four Supporters’ Shield titles to his name – had been sitting on 240 victories since late last season, and the New England Revolution’s 1-0 win over FC Dallas in Saturday’s home opener merely confirmed what everyone in American soccer circles have known all along: Bruce is best.
“The record is nice,” Arena said with just a touch of modesty. “Again, if I had a bunch of lousy teams, I don’t think I’d have the record. Having it, getting it today is nice, to have it at home. I thought at some point in 2022 we’d get another win, so it’s nice to get it out of the way and hopefully we can move forward and try to get this team better.”
Arena accumulated his 241 wins with four different teams – the Revs (39 wins), LA Galaxy (125), New York Red Bulls (16) and D.C. United (61) – and many of those battles were against longtime colleague and adversary Schmid, who sadly passed away in 2018. While Arena was, as always, reticent to highlight his own accomplishments, he spoke glowingly of his relationship with Schmid.
“I have the greatest respect for him,” Arena said. “He was a gentleman and really dedicated to the game and his players. And he was a neighbor to my son, actually, in Manhattan Beach, as well. So I’ve known Sigi for many years and, you know, we’ve had a couple beers together and all those things. It’s an honor to be associated with him.”
It’s no surprise that that’s how Arena’s players feel about him, as well. The 70-year-old joined New England as the club’s sporting director and head coach in May 2019 with the Revs floundering at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. In the two-and-a-half years since the Revs have reached the playoffs three times, advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2020, and set the MLS single-season points record (73) en route to their first-ever Supporters’ Shield title in 2021.
Arena has been the chief architect of that success as both the sporting director – masterminding acquisitions like Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa, Sebastian Lletget, Matt Polster, Henry Kessler, Jozy Altidore, and others – and head coach, where his man-management skills have become legendary.
“He’s pretty remarkable,” said Andrew Farrell. “He’s come in and changed what we’ve been doing here, and I think he changed it for the better a lot. A lot of things he’s done have helped us a lot on a personal level and on the field, but it’s cool to see because he manages to make all types of people work together.
“And not just the team – the front office, the organization as a whole, the relationship with the fans. He finds the best people and figures out how to make them work together, so that’s what he’s done. I think it’s cool to see it happen upfront and personal, and obviously congrats to him. I’m sure he probably won’t – he doesn’t care if I say congrats, but I think it’s an amazing accomplishment.”
There is perhaps no better indicator of Arena’s magnetic pull than the fact that players consistently find their way back to him at various points in their careers. Just the past two years have seen Lletget, Altidore, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, and Emmanuel Boateng all reunite with Arena having played under him at previous clubs.
While Arena is always quick to point to his players as the primary reason that he has been so successful during 18 seasons in MLS – having secured his first-ever MLS win back on May 1, 1996, coaching D.C. United to a 3-1 win over the Dallas Burn – those players know that Arena has always been the maestro pulling all the strings and pushing all the right buttons.
“Everybody knows what he’s about,” said Altidore. “I think a big, big part of professional sports is man management. You’ve got egos, you’ve got pros, you’ve got guys that have been around. And when you’re able to do that well, which I think he’s mastered, you’re always going to have guys that want to play for you. I think this team is no different. I think you see guys fighting up until the very, very last bounce of the ball. That’s a testament to the environment, the team environment that’s here.
“So, it’s a huge congratulations to him. We’re all very happy for him and we just keep moving on.”