Maybe, Bruce Arena just might be
on to something in New England.
After his first game on the sidelines, he admitted the Revs have some work to do, but they suddenly find themselves only two points below the red line after being in the Eastern Conference basement three weeks earlier.
In his first game since Arena took over as their head coach and sporting director, the Revs defeated the LA Galaxy, 2-1, in a promising performance against the team he coached for eight seasons and led to three MLS titles.
The Galaxy began the day with the second best record in MLS -- nine points behind archrival LAFC -- but could not stop the Revs, who got goals from Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury -- both set up by Spaniard playmaker Carles Gil -- on either side of halftime and would have had a third but Diego Fagundez hit the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Brad Knighton needed to make only one save and could nothing to stop Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic score a spectacular bicycle kick in the 84th minute and watch as Diego Polenta rattled the crossbar in the game's dying seconds with a fierce volley.
In contrast to other teams that have spent heavily in recent years, New England started six college products, including rookie DeJuan Jones, in addition to two Homegrown Players (Juan Agudelo and Fagundez), plus a pair of 2018 TAM signings picked up in Mexico (Ecuadoran Cristian Penilla and Colombian Luis Caicedo) and Gil, signed as a Designated Player from Deportivo Coruna in the offseason.
“Well, we have a very unique mix of players in the league, with the growth of the league and the additional funds bringing players," said Arena afterwards. "We played [six] players, and we were a little bit inexperienced, technically could have been a little bit better, but we think they can be good players. We have an athleticism to the team. We have a dynamic player in Gil."
Arena said it was important for Bunbury to get his first goal of the season after scoring a career-high 11 in 2018.
"We got a goal of out Teal tonight, his first of the year," he said. "When your No. 9 has one goal, you want to get that a little better, so we had some chances I thought in the first half, and in the second half to get the third goal, there were some chances there and then of course Ibrahimovic is going to find a way to get a goal, so now you are scrambling and fighting for your life at the end. Having said that, I am pretty proud of this group, they have had a tough run this year and they are beginning to become a team and that is a positive.”
'it’s a special feeling.' After starting out 2-8-2, the Revs are now 2-0-2 since Brad Friedel was fired as head coach on May 9.
“I think there have been a lot of things happening these past few weeks," said Bunbury, "a lot of ups and downs this season, maybe a little more downs than ups, so coming out here and getting a result like that after everyone put in all the work for 90-plus minutes, it’s a special feeling."
Assistant Mike Lapper served as interim coach for the first three games. Arena has brought in Richie Williams as an assistant coach and Curt Onalfo as technical director.
Like Williams, Onalfo played for Arena at the University of Virginia (and briefly at D.C. United). He was fired as the Galaxy coach midway through the 2017 season and had been an assistant with the U.S. U-20s in Poland.
With his staff set, Arena will now turn to adding to the Revs' roster when the summer transfer window opens in July.
“We will look to make the team better," he said after Sunday's game. "It’s challenging mid-year to do that, but we have our eyes on some people and we will attempt to make the team a little bit stronger in the transfer window as well.”