The Strange Saga Explained Bruce Arena-New England Revolution

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FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: New England Revolution assistant coach Richie Williams shouts instructions with New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena during a game between New England Revolution and New York City FC on September 11, 2021 at Stadium Gillette in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Bruce Arena (L) and his assistant coach Richie Williams (R) are at the heart of the New England Revolution saga full of uncertainty. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The revered head coach has resigned. Apparently his former assistants were at war. Players reportedly refused to train. A second interim coach was announced – but without mentioning the first one. That is, in short, the latest in a murky saga that has turned completely strange in recent days, suddenly surrounding Major League Soccer and its second best team, the New England Revolution.

The saga began with an investigation into Bruce Arena, the team’s Hall of Fame coach, who allegedly made “insensitive and inappropriate comments.” Arena was initially placed on “administrative leave.” Six weeks later, last Saturday, he resigned, and MLS said its investigation had “confirmed some of these allegations”.

But that’s about all the league said. And without clarity, MLS and the Revolution left plenty of room for chaos.

What did Arena do?

We don’t know. Players don’t seem to know. MLS has not provided details, nor have the Revs. Nothing is reported. Everyone who has direct knowledge of the situation has been a mother.

Arena admitted, in a statement accompanying his resignation, that he had “made mistakes,” and continued: “Moving forward, I plan to spend some time reflecting on the this situation and taking corrective measures to deal with what has happened.

Who is Bruce Arena?

Arguably the most accomplished American men’s soccer coach of all time. He won five MLS Cups with DC United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. In between, he was the architect of the deepest World Cup run in US men’s national team history (to the semifinals in 2002).

After his second USMNT stint ended disastrously in 2017, he took the Revs job in 2019 and turned the franchise on a path to a major league team in 2021. The Revs then struggled in 2022, but they bounced back in 2023, and were on course to challenge for Arena’s sixth MLS title – until the 71-year-old coach was put on leave, pending the study.

What did the investigation involve?

It was stupid from the very beginning. Arena was initially removed from the team without any public notice or explanation in late July. As word of his absence began to get out, a few days later, the Revolution issued a a short statement confirming the investigation. MLS has enlisted the law firm Proskauer Rose to manage it. Neither the club nor the league said anything more until Arena retired.

When asked Wednesday about the lack of transparency, Rev. president Brian Bilello deferred to the league, and said: “I have faith in the league, I have faith in their processes, and I understand the needs their confidentiality regarding the protection of subjects, witnesses. , reporters, everyone involved in these investigations.”

What happened after Arena retired?

Richie Williams, a longtime Arena supporter, had served as interim head coach during Arena’s leave, and was expected to retain that title. But also on Saturday, The Athletic reported that complaints filed by Williams were the subject of the investigation.

By Monday, public support for Arena began to wane. Rev. Shalrie Joseph was already an assistant coach fall last week: “Thank you for being a man. I appreciate every lesson and every early morning chat we had… I love you big man.” On Monday, Dave van den Bergh, another supporter of Rev, wrote on Instagram that he was “going to miss you my coach, my mentor and my friend. “A third team worker also thanked Arena in an Instagram post.

On Tuesday morning, Billello met with players who wanted answers, including Williams and the coaching staff. In a long meeting, Williams said, as he did throughout, to the players that he could not comment, according to ESPN and The Athletic. The players, disgruntled and apparently distrustful of Williams, responded by refusing to train. (Rev officials have characterized the suspension of training as a “mutual” decision.)

A few hours later, the Revolution announced that they had “parted ways” with Joseph and van den Bergh, and that Clint Peay, the head coach of the club’s reserve team, would become the interim head coach. of the first team “effective immediately”.

Williams was not mentioned in the three-paragraph press release. The next day, Bilello said: “Richie Williams is a valuable member of our group, and he remains with the group. As everyone can imagine, this has been a very difficult time for Richie, the last few days and weeks, and so have we.’ I offered Richie some time off during this window.”

So the players and coaches support Arena?

That’s the assumption, though it’s hard to know, and hard for players to express support without knowledge of Arena’s alleged behavior.

“It’s just weird what’s going on, we still don’t know what happened or what’s going on,” veteran defensive end Omar Gonzalez told CBS Sports last month. guys hopefully Bruce will be back soon and ready to start the second half of the season and continue the way we have been going.

And while Joseph and van den Bergh have supported Arena, Williams and Onalfo in particular have not.

So is there a split between coaches?

Yes – and it would have been reported before the inspection. The Athletic said Arena, Williams and Onalfo have been at odds over football decisions since 2022. (Arena, in addition to her role as head coach, also served as athletic director and chief of staff of the players; Onalfo, formerly the technical director, replaced him in the role of sporting director on an interim basis.)

The Athletic also said that during Arena’s leave, with Williams running the team as an interim coach, Joseph and van den Bergh had gone out of training sessions several times.

Is there a history between Williams and Arena?

Lots of history, but it all seemed positive until recently.

Williams played for Arena at the University of Virginia from 1988-91. The two reunited five years later, when Arena took control of D.C. United and drafted Williams before the inaugural MLS season. After Arena took the USMNT job in 1998, he immediately called Williams up for his first national team. Williams, a diminutive midfielder, eventually played 20 times for the USMNT, all under Arena.

Williams then went into coaching after his playing career. He was an assistant under Arena with the New York Red Bulls in 2006 and 2007, and later with the USMNT in 2017. Arena then brought him to New England in 2019.

Who is Joseph, van den Bergh and Onalfo?

Onalfo, like Williams, played for Arena at Virginia and has been one of Arena’s acolytes ever since. He was an assistant coach in the second cycle of the USMNT’s first tenure at Arena, from 2003-06. Arena then brought him to the Galaxy as an assistant coach in 2011, and to New England as technical director in 2019.

Van den Bergh, a Dutch player who started his career in Europe, came to MLS in 2006. After half a season in Kansas City, Arena, then the head coach of the Red Bulls, trade for van den Bergh. Three years later, after retiring as a player, van den Bergh began his career as a coach. He spent several years with the US youth national teams. In 2019, Arena brought him to New England as an assistant.

On the other hand, Joseph had no history with Arena. Rev was a legend who played 10 seasons for the team (2003-12), then joined the club as a coach in its academy in 2020. After two seasons working with young players, jumped e to Arena’s first team coaching staff in 2022.

Joseph, van den Bergh and Arena have all now left the club. Onalfo remains the interim sports director. Williams’ status is unclear.

“In terms of his role with the club, I have nothing to share today,” Billello told Williams on Wednesday. “But we are continuing to talk to Richie about his role with the club at the time to come

What’s next for Arena?

Arena is going to be 72 years old. He is respected throughout MLS, and if not for the cloud of scrutiny, he will surely walk into another job before next season. However, in their statement on Saturday, the league said, “if Arena wishes to pursue employment within MLS in the future, he must first petition the Commissioner.”

What’s next for the Revolution?

At the same time, the Urranans are still in second place in the Eastern Conference, with the joint-second best points tally in the league. They will soon earn a playoff spot.

But they have won just one of their four MLS games since Arena was first taken away. Their new interim coach, Peay, has never coached in MLS. They are talented, but the whole saga is still very uncertain and threatens to derail a promising season.

“This has all been a distraction, for everyone,” Onalfo admitted Wednesday. “Nobody asked for this.”

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