After turning down other offers, Arena accepted the position of sporting director and head coach of the Revolution, replacing the fired Brad Friedel — one of his former players with the U.S. men’s national team.
Arena said he is happy to be back in the game, although he would have been content in retirement.
“If I decided not to take the current position I would have been fine,” he said. “I was enjoying myself in Southern California — probably playing too much golf.”
The Revolution had a record of 2-8-2 when Friedel was sacked and have just one loss in 17 matches since the announcement that Arena would take charge.
Arena has made one key acquisition since taking over, Gustavo Bou, who he watched closely at Club Tijuana while still coaching the LA Galaxy.
“We were very close in proximity, and I had contact with Club Tijuana over the years and used to watch them play often,” Arena said. “So, we knew about the player [Bou]. To use a college term, we recruited him pretty hard.”
After clinching an MLS Cup playoffs berth with a 3-1 win at the Vancouver Whitecaps last Saturday, head coach Dome Torrent praised his center forward Hebér, who opened the scoring in the 10th minute. “I say to you many times, we played well but we need a striker,” Torrent said. “When Héber arrived, we began to win some games.”
Now, Torrent must make do without his striker. Hebér sustained a quad injury against Vancouver and is expected to miss three-to-four weeks, the majority of the remaining regular season.
NYCFC’s first test without Hebér comes this Saturday versus New England. Pro Soccer USA’s Julian Cardillo joined Crooks to preview the match and provide insight into the Revs’ resurrection under Arena.
“I think that [the players] have confidence,” Cardillo said, explaining what has changed under the new coach. “I think that’s one thing, but the main thing is that Bruce Arena knows how he wants them to play. He want’s them to play possession. He doesn’t want them to aimlessly run and press. Brad Friedel would have told you that the press was this complicated thing and there was more to it than just pushing guys up the field, but the players just weren’t getting it. Right now Bruce wants to play way more possession, use the press a little bit less and he’s really been able to maximize some of the role players using their best skills.
“I think it’s really helped to turn the team around. They have a tactical identity, and I don’t think they had that the first three months of the season.”