New England Revolution

Bruce Arena hints at ‘a number of new players’ arriving, optimistic about Revolution’s recent run

Assessing both his current squad as well as potential signings when the transfer window opens, Bruce Arena thinks his team is "heading in the right direction."

Bruce Arena Dylan Borrero
Dylan Borrero practicing as Bruce Arena looks on. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

As the winningest coach in Major League Soccer history — and the only person to win “Coach of the Year” in four different decades — Bruce Arena has as good a gauge as anyone in assessing the Revolution’s 2022 trajectory.

In 2019, during his first year as Revolution head coach, Arena astutely noted that while New England had started badly, there was still time to make a playoff push.

“In MLS, the second half of the season is the season,” he explained, a statement which ultimately proved prophetic as the Revolution would go on to clinch the the club’s first postseason spot in four years despite being bottom of the league in May.

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Looking at the second half of the current season, Arena’s words will once again be accurate, one way or the other.

Through the first 17 games of a 34-game regular season, New England experienced a roller-coaster ride of results before things eventually calmed down. After a period from March through late April in which the Revolution won just a single MLS league game against five defeats, the team has now gone on a nine-game unbeaten run to restore its playoff aspirations.

At the end of the down-and-up start, New England finds itself seventh in the Eastern Conference, right on the playoff line. As Arena has seen countless times over the years, his team’s fate will come down to the final 17 games of the season.

So as he looks at the latter half of the year, does Arena feel his team might be finally forging an identity?

“We’re healthy for the first time, or close to being healthy, for the first time this year,” Arena pointed out during a Friday press conference. “So, I think as we get through the month of July, as we enter August and September and October as we close out the regular season, we’ll have hopefully a healthy team and a team that’s pretty competitive.”

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An added degree of difficulty in this season has been the list of departures the club has experienced in the transfer market. With 2021 starters Tajon Buchanan, Adam Buksa, and Matt Turner gone in separate European moves, the Revolution front office has been working to find replacements.

So far, Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic and Colombian winger Dylan Borrero have been acquired to help fill the gaps. Both are in the process of acclimating to MLS.

In addition, the Revolution are expected to sign Albanian international Giacomo Vrioni from Italian club Juventus after the MLS summer transfer window opens on July 7, according to both a team source and multiple reports. He will fill the team’s third and final Designated Player spot left vacant by Buksa’s departure.

Vrioni, a 23-year-old forward, scored 21 goals and notched five assists in 30 games across all competitions last season while playing on loan for WSG Tirol in the Austrian Bundesliga.

Arena alluded to the reported Vrioni deal, as well as the potential for additional moves.

“We will have brought in a number of new players, and that takes a little bit of time,” Arena said of the coming weeks. “Our goalkeeper [Petrovic] is getting caught up to speed, as is Borrero as well. And we’ll likely have an addition next week. So, it takes a little bit of time but I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

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In the next three games, New England will play Cincinnati (July 3), New York City FC (July 9), and Philadelphia (July 16). Each of those teams currently sit in the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings, and will pose potentially difficult match-ups.

But with his roster finally beginning to solidify — and with more pieces expected to fall into place soon — Arena finished Friday on an optimistic note.

“We’re in much better shape now than we were in the beginning of the season,” he said, “so hopefully that means we’re going to have a promising second half of the season.”

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