Bruce Arena was formally introduced as sporting director and head coach of the New England Revolution on Thursday during a press conference at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution fired former coach Brad Friedel on May 9, and have turned to assistant Mike Lapper in the interim. General manager Michael Burns — one of the team’s original players in 1996 — was fired on Monday. Arena will be given the opportunity to replace both.
Now 67 years old, Arena isn’t lacking in ambition.
“This is such a great sports town,” he told reporters. “We want to try to elevate the Revolution on par with these other great championship teams in Boston.”
Arena said his first game on the bench will likely be either the Revolution’s June 2 matchup with the Los Angeles Galaxy (a team he used to coach) or the post-Gold Cup game against the Philadelphia Union on June 26.
Here are a few things for Revs fans to know about their new coach:
He’s won in MLS before.
Arena’s history as a coach in MLS has been intertwined with New England, though not in the way Revolution fans would’ve wanted.
In 1996, the first year of the league, Arena’s D.C. United won the inaugural MLS Cup at Foxboro Stadium. Played in a nor’easter amid rain and strong winds (the remnant of Hurricane Lili), Arena orchestrated his team’s comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the final 15 minutes to force “sudden death” overtime, in which defender Eddie Pope won it for United.
Arena’s team repeated in 1997, and reached a third MLS Cup in 1998.
The other success Arena enjoyed in MLS came during his time with the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2008-2016.
Once again, Arena molded a talented roster into a champion, helping the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Irish forward Robbie Keane win multiple titles.
The only disappointing tenure that the five-time MLS Cup champion has experienced occurred in New York with the Red Bulls. Even still, he managed to make the playoffs in his lone season before leaving.
He experienced some of the highest and lowest men’s national team moments.
Arena is also known for his two tenures as coach of the U.S. men’s national team.
He was first selected for the job following the U.S.’s disastrous showing in France at the 1998 World Cup. Over time, Arena established a successful squad. Still, no one predicted the upset that the U.S. would pull off in the team’s opening game of the 2002 World Cup.
Facing Portugal and World Player of the Year Luis Figo, the Americans rampaged to a 3-0 lead (Bruins announcer Jack Edwards called play-by-play on the American broadcast). The U.S. held on to stun a dark horse contender, 3-2.
Advancing to the round of 16 against Mexico, Arena outfoxed opposing manager Javier Aguirre with a formation change. The resulting U.S. advantage forced Aguirre to make a rare first half substitution (and then a second one at halftime). In the end, Arena’s team — highlighted by a goal from 20-year-old Landon Donovan — advanced, 2-0.
The run finally came to an end in the quarterfinals against eventual runners-up Germany. Despite outplaying the Germans for large stretches of the game (and being denied a fairly blatant handball on the goal-line), the Americans lost 1-0.
Arena’s second World Cup wasn’t as successful. The U.S. crashed out in the group stages, ironically avoiding defeat in only one match (to the eventual champion Italians). After the 2006 tournament, his contract wasn’t renewed. It was the most successful run for a U.S. men’s coach to that point.
More recently, Arena was handed a second go-around in charge of the men’s national team in desperate circumstances in 2016. After a string of losses to begin the final stage of qualification for the 2018 World Cup, then-coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired. Arena was brought in to salvage the qualification effort.
It ended in disaster, with the U.S. men failing to make it to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Entering the final game of qualification, the U.S. needed a win or a draw, but lost to Trinidad and Tobago, 2-1. Arena resigned several days later.
The Revs have asked him to ‘make all the decisions.’
In his new role with the Revolution, Arena is effectively replacing both Friedel and Burns.
“We’ve really asked him to take over our soccer operation and make all the decisions and build and organization that can be competitive on an annual basis here,” said team president Brian Billelo.
Not unlike the other coach of a Kraft-owned team, Arena will have full power to make the decisions he sees fit to help the club.
As far as the budget he will be given, Arena seemed confident in his press conference.
“We’ll have the resources to make the team better,” Arena said. An ongoing issue for the team has been its comparatively low payroll. In 2018, New England ranked near the bottom of MLS in team salaries.
Giving full power to Arena, who has coached some of the most recognizable faces in MLS, makes it likely that changes are coming.