FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution president Brian Bilello said Thursday during an introductory press conference that hiring Bruce Arena as team’s sporting director and head coach was “not that hard of a decision.”
Once the team parted ways with former coach Brad Friedel, Bilello began talking to Arena about the coaching role. When that conversation started, Bilello knew he wanted Arena to run all soccer operations and parted ways with general manager Mike Burns to clear the way.
“Bruce wasn't a reactionary hire, it's something we've been thinking about for a long time,” Bilello said. “This was someone we really want as part of the organization.”
Arena answered a wide range of questions, with many focused on his strong front office position. Arena said owner-operator Robert Kraft would provide the financial resources to improve the team. Arena said he will be “smart” about spending on player salaries though the goal is to make the team “much more competitive and ultimately, one day, win an MLS Cup.”
Arena, who has won a record five MLS Cups (1996, 1997, 2011, 2012, 2014) as a coach, added there is no specific spending amount that correlates with winning the league, though his last six LA Galaxy teams from 2011-16 were never lower than third in MLS in player salaries and spent average of $14.66 million per season, according to figures provided by the MLS Players Association. Conversely, the most the Revolution spent during that same time was $7.81 million in 2014, when they acquired Jermaine Jones and lost to the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final.
“I don't think any club in the league needs to spend the way Atlanta spends,” Arena said of the current MLS Cup champion, which has spent freely on salaries and transfer fees. “You can be successful without being the top spender in the league.”
Revs owner Robert Kraft, left, pictured with Bruce Arena, then coach of the LA Galaxy, at the 2014 MLS Cup Final in Carson, Calif. | USA Today Images
Asked about how far off success is for New England, Arena conceded it is not a quick fix for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2015 and is currently bottom of the Eastern Conference.
“You know it's not going to happen in the next two weeks, but I'm confident over the next couple of years, that we can make very good progress and make this team much more competitive than it is today,” Arena said.
In building up the club, he views the Revs' pending $35 million training facility as a key weapon in his arsenal.
"[It] can attract free agents out of the league as well as players from abroad," he said. "So I think they're going to be a lot of resources here to allow us to make this team, much more successful.”
Arena added that Homegrown Players are also part of the plan, as his hiring a staff he trusts to help build club infrastructure. On Thursday afternoon, Paul Tenorio of The Athletic reported that Arena is looking to add Curt Onalfo, his former player with D.C. United and assistant coach with the LA Galaxy, as his technical director, and he's also reached out to D.C. to request permission to speak with Richie Williams, head coach of the club's USL side Loudoun United.