CARSON, Calif. — Bruce Arena will make his sideline debut with the New England Revolution this weekend at his old stamping grounds in Southern California, taking on the last club that he he guided to unprecedented heights.
Those still with the LA Galaxy are excited about his homecoming Sunday evening at Dignity Health Sports Park (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, DAZN in Canada), and so is their new coach.
“That's awesome,” center back Daniel Steres, whom Arena brought into the Galaxy's first team three years ago, said upon hearing confirmation Friday that the new Revs boss would be on hand. “It'll be a good homecoming for him.
“I'm grateful for all that he did for me here, and hopefully he does well in New England, top. Hoping for the best, but, obviously, not this weekend.”
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Steres is one of four players remaining from Arena's 2008-16 tenure in charge of the Galaxy, a span in which they won three MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields with talented sides that starred David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez.
Arena brought attacking midfielder Sebastian Lletget and defender Dave Romney to the Galaxy in 2015, and Brazilian midfielder Juninho played for him from 2009 through 2015 and returned to the club this season.
The Galaxy were at their lowest point when Arena took charge in August 2008, heading toward a third successive year without participating in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and lacking the talent required to contend for trophies. Arena, who also was the GM, rebuilt the roster during the offseason and into the 2009 campaign and had them playing for the MLS title by season's end.
They won the Supporters' Shield the following year, a Cup/Shield double in 2011, and two more MLS Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. Arena resigned after the 2016 season to take charge of the US national team in its final, failed push for the 2018 World Cup berth.
The Revolution announced his appointment on May 14, five days after Brad Friedel was fired, and he's since been observing, mostly, with Mike Lapper in charge during the games. He'd said earlier this week that if his presence would be a distraction, that he'd skip the Galaxy game and make his league debut at home June 26 against Philadelphia, after the league's brief break at the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Romney expects Arena to have the Revolution (3-8-4), who are 11th in the Eastern Conference after going 1-0-2 under Lapper, again competing for spoils.
“He's a great GM, a great manager, and he can definitely get that organization on the right track in a hurry ...,” Romney said after LA's training session Friday, where he also referenced the success of the Revolution's NFL counterpart, the Patriots.
Steres and Romney praised Arena's ability to build rosters with great chemistry and provide the tools to achieve big things.
“I think he's always been kind of a manager more than, let's say, a coach, you know?” Steres said. “He knows how to take care of the people in the locker room, give the confidence when they need it. I think that's what he did for me.
“He put me out there my first year with guys like Stevie [Gerrard] and all these guys [with a lot of experience] and just made me feel comfortable there. That's what he does best, and he'll probably help [the Revolution] with the same thing.”
First-year head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who has the Galaxy (9-5-1) second in the league after sweeping Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City in a weekend/midweek road swing, played against Arena's New York Red Bulls and Galaxy teams when he starred for the Columbus Crew in 2007-10.
“I remember, he looked like [my Crew coach] Sigi [Schmid], with a lot of history from the beginning of the league,” Schelotto said. “The name is very important. ... The world [spoke] about MLS or about the US team in the World Cup when he was coaching. I think he's a very important man for soccer in USA.”
The Galaxy understand how Arena prefers to play, and they're not anticipating any huge wrinkles.
“I think he's very practical,” Schelotto said. “He tried to be very organized and to be very direct. Then try to get the players like that. He take Boston now, and I don't know if he's got the players he wants, but he will try, for sure, everything he does always.”
Said Steres: “He usually just takes what he has and tried to get the best out of that group. ... I don't think he's going to change too much over there in the first week. I think he's just going to get them all on the same page.”
Once the game starts, it'll be just another game.
“When I am thinking about the game, I am thinking about the game,” Schelotto said. “Maybe for everything that's [surrounding Arena's appearance], it will change for the fans and journalists more than me, because it's Bruce there. Everyone knows who is Bruce, how important he was on Galaxy [and that] he's still very important for the league and for the Galaxy. ...
“But at the start of the game, we need to be out of this thinking [about Bruce] because we play 11-v-11 [with] tactics, and every name will be out [of the conversation] for the game.”
Romney and Steres said they expect Galaxy supporters to warmly welcome Arena.
“It would be a disservice if he wasn't [cheered],” he said. “He brought three championships to this club, so if he gets any boos or something, I wouldn't stand for that.”