WASHINGTON — He laid the foundations the club was built upon, winning the first two MLS Cups in league history and four other major trophies at the head of Major League Soccer’s first dynasty. Even now, 20 years later, his name remains a revered one among old soccer heads in the nation’s capital, the launching pad for a professional coaching career that many rank as the most successful in American soccer history.
But Bruce Arena wasn’t feeling the love as he made his first visit to Audi Field as a head coach on Friday night, at the helm of the New England Revolution.
“It’s not that interesting [to be here],” said Arena in his postgame media availability after the Revs scrapped out a hard-earned 2-2 draw against D.C. United extend their unbeaten run under his leadership, surprising reporters who expected a few fond words about his former club. “What’s so interesting? I don’t think the club cares about history here at all.”
And he wasn’t done there.
Arena’s United teams opened the club’s two-decade tenure at RFK Stadium before Audi Field was finally christened a year ago, and one of his key players in his final season in charge of the Black-and-Red in 1998 was none other than Ben Olsen, who has coached D.C. since 2010. Before even that, Arena also recruited Olsen to play collegiately at the University of Virginia.
That close person-to-person relationship appears to be the only tie that still binds Arena to his former home.
“I don’t think there’s been much of a connection to the people that helped build United. There’s a great distance — why, I don’t know, but we haven’t had really any kind of contact or association,” said Arena. “I certainly do with Ben. Ben is a fabulous person, feels like a son, actually."
Early during his playing days, Olsen actually lived with Arena and his family as a member of Project 40, now known as Generation adidas.
“The club itself, of course, they move in a different direction, which, of course, that’s their privilege to do,” Arena continued.
Arena expressed his hopes that the Black-and-Red, who once wore jerseys which included the tagline “Tradition” and earlier this year hosted a reunion of the Washington Diplomats, their NASL forbears, will someday pay more explicit tribute to the old days in their new home.
“I should see [club legends] Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno in the rafters somewhere. This club had a great tradition; that tradition you should see every time you walk in the stadium. That’s just my opinion. What the hell do I know? It’s just what I think,” said Arena.
“You walk into stadiums in any sport around the world, they celebrate their past. They should be celebrated a little more. What do I know, I’m not up with the millennials. They don’t know who the hell anybody was anyways.”