New England Revolution address future after Bruce Arena's resignation

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The New England Revolution have experienced a taxing, and at times tumultuous, last few weeks. Club president Brian Bilello and interim sporting director Curt Onalfo readily admitted as much while fielding questions early Wednesday afternoon.

But the club is also eager to move forward and not let their solid season go to waste. For New England, who sit second in the Eastern Conference standings, that starts Saturday evening when visiting the Colorado Rapids (9:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

“Can we, through all this noise – and none of us asked for this – drive forward and make something out of it? That’s the message we’re telling our players,” said Onalfo. “They are an incredible group of human beings. Watch out because they are united, as we are as a staff and an organization, from ownership all the way through.

“It’s time to get out there and play and stop talking about all the baloney. It’s noise. We’re going to focus on winning.”

Arena, Williams & Peay

The noise, as Onalfo termed it, increased immediately after last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC when it was announced head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena had resigned. The American soccer legend’s decision came nearly six weeks after being placed on administrative leave pending a review into allegations he made insensitive and inappropriate remarks.

New England had been led by Richie Williams, an assistant coach on Arena’s staff, while MLS’s all-time winningest coach was away. And that interim role was affirmed over the weekend, setting course for the Revolution’s final seven regular-season matches before contending in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Yet it became “very clear,” according to Onalfo, after team meetings and discussions that another change was necessary. And so, late Tuesday evening, Clint Peay was elevated to interim head coach after leading Revolution II in MLS NEXT Pro. The club also parted ways with assistant coaches Shalrie Joseph and Dave Van den Bergh, while Williams remains with the club (it’s unclear what, if any, role awaits him).

It’s been a whirlwind few days and Bilello understands New England’s supporters want additional clarity about Arena’s exit. Bilello pointed to the league-conducted investigation for more information, affirming faith in the processes and proceedings.

“To the fans, we all empathize with them,” began Bilello. “I was someone who had season tickets for this club. I try to have as good a relationship as I can have with our fans. But when you’re in these very complex matters, when you’re dealing with very formal investigations, there’s times where you can’t say things and there’s times where you can’t share things that maybe you wish you could share with your players, with your fan base, with everyone.

“That’s a really difficult position to be in as someone who really values my relationships with our fans, with our players, with my staff. So, I’m not looking for sympathy on that by any stretch of imagination, but it’s really hard for us, too. I understand their frustration and I absolutely empathize with them.”

Moving forward

New England didn’t train Tuesday in light of their leadership changes, then resumed preparations Wednesday in anticipation of this weekend’s trip to last-place Colorado, who will be led by interim coach (Chris Little) after recently parting ways with Robin Fraser. The Revolution squad, impacted by all the twists and turns, will be tested mentally as much as tactically in the non-conference clash.

“We have an incredible group of players in our locker room and they are 100 percent focused on Colorado, which is the number one focus is playing a game and winning,” said Onalfo. “This has all been a distraction for everybody. Nobody asked for this. We’ve pushed through it in a positive way and our goal is to thrive, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Yet some big-picture questions loom over New England. Who will succeed Arena on a permanent basis? Does that individual also oversee the sporting side, as Arena did upon his May 2019 arrival, or will they just be tasked with leading the first team? What does the club’s long-term future look like? Will this impact player recruitment in any way after steady growth in recent years?

What’s clear is the Revolution’s leadership group hopes the collective rises above the headlines to prove they remain an MLS Cup contender.

“Adversity is an opportunity to make the most of the situation,” said Onalfo. “We are making the most of our situation right now.

“To answer your question, yes, we will continue to attract great players to this organization because we have great owners, we have an excellent president who sits right next to me, and we have great people in this building that will continue to thrive. Our focus is to get through this and focus. No more distractions. We move forward and it starts with Colorado on Saturday.”