Newly appointed New England Revolution manager Bruce Arena said it’s a great time to be back in MLS and coaching in the Boston area, but warned against any comparisons to legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick.
Like the New England Patriots boss, Arena, who was also named the club’s sporting director earlier this week, has been given full authority to mold the Revolution as he sees fit. But he was quick to point out that’s where any similarities between the two men end.
“I’m not Bill Belichick. I don’t deserve to be in the same sentence with him,” the former United States national team coach said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC on Thursday.
“But I think it’s important that when you’re given the responsibility, to do the job the right way, with the right integrity, the right work ethic. And I’ll do that and … sports is difficult. You don’t win every game as we know. It’s extremely challenging. But I’m just confident that we’ll have all the right pieces in place to try to make this team more successful.”
Arena, 67, takes over a Revolution team anchoring the Eastern Conference table with just 11 points from 13 matches played, and the appointment marks his first coaching job since failing to qualify the U.S. for the 2018 World Cup in Russia — the first time the country had missed out on soccer’s biggest event since 1986.
Asked why he chose to come back at this time, with the Revs so down, Arena said he believed in owner Robert Kraft’s leadership and vision for the franchise.
“Why not?” he said. “I think it’s a great time. I think the Revolution is an organization that can only go forward. And I believe in the ownership group. I believe in the potential this team has in this city.
“It’s a great city to work in in sports. It’s fabulous. I think there are a lot of goals we have as an organization to improve the team on the field, to build a stadium downtown one day, so there’s a lot of positive things as we move forward and I want to be a part of that.”
Despite the promise of new beginnings, Arena brings with him the scars of 2017, when his U.S. side lost at Trinidad & Tobago on the final day of World Cup qualifying to end their hopes of going to Russia.
However, he said he’s not joining New England with any point to prove.
“No. I really don’t. I’m as disappointed as anyone with the team not qualifying for the World Cup but that’s also part of sport,” he said. “When I started that job with the U.S. team in November of 2016, we’d already lost two games in qualifying and we knew it was going to go down to the last day and it did and we came up short. And I, as well as others, accept the responsibility for that.”
When it was suggested the World Cup failure weighed on his legacy, Arena said he was comfortable with what he’s achieved in his 40-year career as a coach.
And his time on the sideline hasn’t been without plenty of successes. A former D.C. United, New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy boss, Arena won two MLS Cups while in charge of D.C. and three while at the helm of the Galaxy and has been named MLS Coach of the Year on three occasions.
“Obviously it’s unfinished business if I’m still working in the game,” he added of joining the Revolution. “I’d like the final chapter to be a real good one. Perhaps where I’m holding up a trophy.”
His newest challenge could begin against the Galaxy, when the Revs visit the StubHub Center on June 2, though before that they will play the Montreal Impact on Saturday (live on ESPN+ at 1 p.m. ET), and will then face D.C. on May 25 (live on ESPN+ at 7.30 p.m. ET).
“How ironic would that be? You know I have nothing but great memories of being in LA. We had some great years. I came into a situation that was kind of comparable in some ways to the climate here with the Revolution right now,” Arena said of the prospect of starting his New England tenure against L.A.
“We worked real hard to make it better and I think I’m going to do the same thing. If coaching against the Galaxy is my first game with the Revolution, that’ll be great. They’ve got a great team this year and it would be a lot of fun to step on that field and watch our team compete against them.”