CARSON, Calif. – Bruce Arena seldom lost in the LA Galaxy's stadium during nearly a decade as the club's head coach and general manager, and that didn't change with his return Sunday night, in his first game on the sidelines in charge of the New England Revolution.
Undefeated since dismissing Brad Friedel nearly a month ago, the Revs (4-8-4) claimed their first road victory of the season, holding on for a 2-1 triumph over the Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park to keep intact Arena's unbeaten record as a visiting coach in the 16-year-old venue.
Arena guided the Galaxy to three MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields in eight-plus seasons at the helm of perhaps the league's greatest dynasty, and received a warm if subdued welcome from the home crowd. His new team then frustrated the fans with some superb counterattacking soccer.
“I have nothing but great memories, win, lose or draw,” Arena, who maintains a home in nearby Manhattan Beach, said afterward. “This is never going to be an environment that I don't feel comfortable [in, and I'm] proud to have been here. ... People were nice. Some lady was nice enough to come up to me and apologize for her husband yelling at me.
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“I think I was yelled at more when I was coaching here than I was tonight.”
There's plenty of work for Arena to do as he looks to do for New England what he achieved with D.C. United in MLS’s early years and with the Galaxy from late 2008 until he left at the end of the 2016 campaign to take charge of the United States' failed bid to qualify for last year's World Cup.
He saw a lot of good from the Revs, who went ahead just before halftime through Cristian Penilla and doubled the advantage on Teal Bunbury's first goal of the campaign midway through the second half. Later they held on after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's bicycle kick to the upper-left corner in the 84th minute, claiming the victory only after Diego Polenta's stoppage-time drive caromed off the crossbar.
“We have probably a very unique mix of players for the league, with the growth of the league in terms of the additional funds to bring players in,” Arena said. “We played maybe four or five college kids tonight. Little bit inexperienced, technically can be a little bit better, but in time, they can be good players. We have athleticism in our team, we have a real dynamic player in [Carles] Gil, we got a goal out of Teal tonight, [and] when your No. 9 has one goal, you want to get that a little better.
“I'm pretty proud of this group. They've had a tough run this year, and they're beginning to become a team, so that was a positive.”
New England are 2-0-2 and have conceded just three goals since Friedel was dismissed on May 9. Arena was hired five days later and has been observing as Mike Lapper guided the Revs to a win over San Jose and draws at Montreal and at home against D.C. He ran his first training session on Tuesday, and on Sunday stepped on the sideline for the first time in nearly 19 months.
“I've been on the sidelines [during that span],” he wisecracked, “with a beer in my hand.”
Arena was asked if he missed coaching.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I think when you coach, you always like to think you can still coach, and you always have a thought process that coaches have. To get the change to get back on the field is always rewarding, to be sure.”
It was the 105th overall MLS victory (across regular-season and playoffs action) for Arena in the stadium. He's 10-0-2 as a visiting coach, beating Chivas USA and tying the Galaxy with the New York Red Bulls in 2007, going 8-0-1 against CUSA as Galaxy boss – the draw was in the first leg of a 2009 playoff series LA won – and now the Revs' victory.