FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The dictionary defines optimism as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something,” and “the feeling that in the future good things are more likely to happen than bad things.”
See also: the New England Revolution following the 2019 season.
That optimism is the overwhelming sentiment in New England is quite remarkable considering the context of where the Revs were six months ago, sat at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings following back-to-back five-goal losses to Philadelphia and Chicago. But that’s the Bruce Arena effect.
Arena arrived in mid-May and immediately went about shifting the course of the entire organization, beginning with the simple act of instilling confidence in the players. The result was an 11-game unbeaten run (7-0-4) which kick-started a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“I think the year was a good year for the Revolution,” said Arena. “I really do.”
“It was forced upon us to grow together; it was sink or swim early on there for us,” said Jalil Anibaba. “I’m really proud to be part of this group. It was a great year. Obviously we had to show what we were really made of, and some of the more difficult things one can go through as a player.
“It was a lot of fun, but I think we’ve shown just a little bit of what we can really achieve.”
That, of course, is where you find the optimism for the future. New England lost just three of their final 22 regular-season games (9-3-10) and pushed the defending champions Atlanta United FC to the brink with a 1-0 playoff loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For 2019, that was a success.
But questions linger. What if Arena had arrived earlier and the Revs hadn’t needed to dig themselves out of the hole their 2-8-2 start created? What if Arena had a bit more time to shape the squad, and had the chance to add more than just one piece – Gustavo Bou – to the roster he inherited?
Those answers will arrive in 2020.
“We were excited with how the second half of the season went,” said Andrew Farrell. “I think we grew a lot. Not necessarily as a team, but as an organization. I think Bruce has taken us in the right direction. Obviously with a full year of him, it’s going to be exciting for what he can do for this club.”
With increased optimism comes increased expectations, and while Arena pumped the brakes on suggesting the Revs would be any kind of favorites next season, he said the objective – like every team in every sport – is to get better.
Better, in the simplest terms, would be a deeper playoff run. Perhaps a home playoff game. All while adding a few significant pieces to the roster and moving into a brand new, state-of-the-art training facility.
And there’s not a soul who doesn’t feel like those objectives are perfectly attainable.
“I would say exciting times ahead for this organization,” said Teal Bunbury, who has experienced the highs of an Eastern Conference title with the Revs, and the lows of three playoff-less seasons. “The turnaround, the positivity amongst the guys in the locker room, with the fans, with the ownership, just the way things are going – I think it’s super positive.
“It’s an exciting time for myself, as a player, to be a part of, and I’m just looking forward already to having a nice, enjoyable offseason with the family, but then getting back to work in 2020.”