Bruce Arena’s fondest memory in Foxborough, Mass. came in 1996 when he led D.C. United to victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first-ever MLS Cup during a torrential downpour.
The New England Revolution, which unveiled Arena as its sporting director and eighth head coach during a press conference on Thursday morning, hopes Arena will create new memories of triumph at Gillette Stadium in the not too distant future.
Flanked by Revolution President Brian Bilello, Arena, a two-time United States men’s national team coach and five-time MLS Cup winner, said he wants to instill a culture of winning in the Revolution, who haven’t been in a playoff match since 2015 and have lost in seven finals all-time.
“Teams that are successful have a lot of things – it’s the whole organization, not just the coaches or players,” Arena said. “I’m going to come in every day and develop relationships and work to find the right mentality as a team.
“Results on the field will enlighten everybody, from the equipment manager, to the players, to ownership. But we need success on the field and to find the right formula as a group…I’m going to look inside the team and evaluate things and build the right culture that I think is appropriate here – the kind of culture you need to be successful within MLS. I’ve been to seven MLS Cups and won five, so I think I have a feel for that.”
Arena said he expects to put together an entire staff in the coming days and could be on the sidelines for the Revolution’s visit to the Los Angeles Galaxy on June 2.
Arena, 67, a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, coached D.C. United to two MLS Cup victories between 1996-98 and the Galaxy to three MLS Cup victories between 2008-16.
One of those victories came against the Revolution, a 2-1 extra time victory in Los Angeles in 2014.
Arena also coached the New York Red Bulls (2006-07) and led the United States to a quarterfinal finish at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
He returned to coach the U.S. in the final stages of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann, but the team failed to reach the tournament as it lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago in the final qualifier.
“I’m proud of the job I did [with the United States] in 2017,” Arena said. “We had a great group of players who worked hard and we fell short, and that’s life unfortunately. It doesn’t define my legacy.
“I am 67 in a country where the president is in his 70s and his likely competition is 70-something, so I’m the young kid on the block,” Arena added. “Did I have to [come to the Revolution]? No. But I love coaching, and I love the sport, and I love the challenge of building the game in this country. It’s important to me and this is not an easy thing to walk away from.”
Bilello said the Revolution contacted Arena last week after deciding to part with former head coach Brad Friedel. The Revolution, who also fired former general manager Mike Burns on Monday, had approached Arena for the head coaching job in 2017 as well but chose Friedel instead.
Arena, who praised Revolution owner Robert Kraft for his stewardship of MLS and American soccer, also noted that teams that spend the most money don’t always win trophies. Additionally, neither Arena nor management have written off New England’s playoff hopes in 2019, though Arena noted he will be making moves with an eye toward the future in the coming months.
The Revolution (3-8-2, 13 points) are off to one of their worst starts in team history and currently reside at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“In the short term, I want to get in and get to know the team, let them understand what I’m asking of them and try to make it a better,” Arena said. “I’m going to make decisions that go past this season. There’s a lot to be done in the next six months.”