FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Mike Burns calmly answered critical questions about his performance as the New England Revolution‘s general manager Friday and outlined how he plans to lead the club forward after the firing of head coach Brad Friedel.
“Brad, in his time here, gave all he had, but the decision was made that we felt was in the best interest of the club going forward,” Burns said. “Having two-thirds of the season left — in this league, you can lose a few games and really be down, but if you win one, two or three games you’re back in the mix. We feel there’s enough time left to resurrect where we currently sit.”
Burns – along with interim coach Mike Lapper and veteran Revolution players – spoke outside the team’s locker room at Gillette Stadium. In addition to Friedel’s firing, they addressed the club’s 2-8-2 start to the season, which puts the Revs at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Lapper said he hopes to be a candidate for the permanent head coach position, one Burns will help fill despite calls from supporters for him to be removed as the club’s general manager.
One of the most vocal groups against Burns remaining at the club was the Midnight Riders, one of the Revolution’s official supporters groups, which released a statement Thursday thanking Burns for his service to the club as a player, but still calling for him to be removed.
When asked to assess his performance as the club’s general manager and whether he should be involved in finding the next head coach, Burns said, “I look at my tenure over the 15 years I’ve worked in the front office: We’ve had lot of positive moments and certainly some downturns as well.”
“I think I have a job as the general manager that is second-guessed,” Burns said. “Obviously, there are a lot people in the media and fans that have opinions, both positive and negative. To comment on any comments that are made, I think, isn’t appropriate for me. For my tenure at this club, and anything I’ve ever done, I’ve given everything I’ve had and will continue to do so.”
This will be Burns’ third coaching search. His first ended with the hiring of Revolution legend Jay Heaps, who was head coach from 2012-17. Burns then hired Friedel in November 2017.
Both coaches were hired without any significant coaching experience. The Revolution showed promise under Heaps, reaching the playoffs three times and making a trip to the 2014 MLS Cup final, but the club hasn’t seen the postseason since 2015 and is poised to miss out again this year if current results continue.
Burns offered no significant details or timetable about the search for the next head coach, which will be the club’s eighth.
Burns said at Friedel’s introductory press conference nearly two years ago that he went through nearly 24 applications for the open position, whittled the list down to six to eight names and then consulted with club President Brian Bilello and the Krafts to choose a coach.
Lapper joined the Revolution as an assistant when Friedel was first hired and has 15 years of coaching experience, including stints with the United States men’s youth national teams, the Columbus Crew and West Virginia University.
Lapper refuted the notion that Friedel lost the locker room after the club’s poor start to the season. He also said he spoke to Friedel on Friday morning and the former coach knew it was time for the club to make a change.
Lapper’s first game on the bench is Saturday night when the Revolution host the San Jose Earthquakes, which is expected to draw a crowd of close to 30,000.
“Any time there’s a change of the head guy, in the locker room you see kind of an exhale, and everyone thinks they have a chance now, which is true,” Lapper said. “Everyone has a chance. It’s a new beginning and a new start. We have a home game and a big crowd, so I think the energy level will be picked up. My hope is the players will use this as a catapult to move forward and get results and get this club where it needs to be and should be.
“The good news is we have plenty of games to get points. In this league – I’ve been in it 17 years — if you get two or three wins on the trot, you’ll be right there.”
Team veterans Scott Caldwell and Teal Bunbury also spoke to reporters Friday. Bunbury said he was embarrassed by the team’s recent results. Caldwell also spoke candidly before taking questions.
“As players, we know we’re not performing on the field and that it has to change,” Caldwell said. “It’s something everyone in the locker room knows. Our performances have not been good enough. It starts tomorrow night. We need to get results, and that’s our job.”