FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two weeks after his appointment, New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena ran his first training session with the team Tuesday afternoon.
Arena said interim coach Mike Lapper did a “very good job” in the wake of Brad Friedel’s dismissal, which allowed Arena time to make initial evaluations as opposed to jumping right into the fray. Arena, however, is now ready to look critically at the team in the way he knows best over his decades-long career.
“I’ve said this a million times, you never know a team unless you get inside it,” Arena said.
Arena’s maiden training session was sharp and simple. He said that he wanted to give the players a “couple of things to think about, but at the same time, not screw them up.”
“That’s the biggest concern,” Arena said. “I can confuse them, give them maybe a little too much information.”
Teal Bunbury said Arena’s practice had “attention to detail” and the players had an “understanding of what he expects from us.”
“I think, we as players want to play for a coach that obviously wants us to win and has a huge pedigree and has gotten the job done at every stage of the sport,” the forward said.
There is a learning curve, even for an experienced coach like Arena. He is still trying to put names to every face on the team, as well as understand their collective and individual strengths and weaknesses.
Goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who finished last weekend’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United after Matt Turner’s collision with Wayne Rooney resulted in a red card and could start Sunday (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, on DAZN in Canada) at the LA Galaxy, said that Arena’s player management skills stand out most.
“Everyone knows their specific role, whether it's David Beckham or Robbie Keane or Gyasi Zardes,” Knighton said. “These guys knew their specific role within Bruce's system [with the Galaxy] and I feel like he's going to find those players within our group and try and maximize their qualities like he did with those players in LA.”
Speaking of the Galaxy, now that Arena is leading training, will he take over on the sidelines as well? He didn't yet have an answer to that question.
“I don’t know yet,” Arena said. “If I think I’m going to be a distraction to the team, I won’t do it.”
Whether Arena or Lapper is in charge on Sunday, getting three points is sole focus of the Revolution. They are 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 13 points and winless in seven road matches this season (0-4-3).
“From here on out, it’s a matter of doing whatever we need to do to get results,” center back Jalil Anibaba said.