Bruce Arena

Revolution using last game against Atlanta as benchmark for upcoming playoffs

Revolution using last game against Atlanta as benchmark for upcoming playoffs

The New England Revolution are back in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, and they're excited about the challenge ahead against Atlanta United FC. 

The message was made clear this week from Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil that Saturday's matchup is going to be a difficult one, but the Revs have a good idea of what to expect when they take the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"Atlanta United is a tough game, a tough team," Gil said. "They have a lot of experience playing in the playoffs, they are the current champions. It's going to be a great atmosphere at their stadium but we played them last game and I think we're trying to use that as a benchmark for what to expect in this coming game. But we know the playoffs, it's going to be a completely new game for us, for them. So, we just need to come out there and give it our best shot to win the game."

Bou elaborated on what Gil had to say, while detailing what the Revs need to do to be successful in Atlanta. 

"The Atlanta game is going to be a hard game," Bou said. "The atmosphere is going to be crazy, but luckily for us we played them two weeks ago. So, we will be using that game as a bit of a reference, a benchmark. We know what worked well for us in that game and also what didn't work well. We learned from that game and the key for us will be to stay together. The forwards need to be the first defender, we all have to push up and score a goal as fast as we can, but another key as the game progresses is to not allow any goals obviously, and try to score as early as we can in the game. That's going to be the key for us."

While they did play the Five Stripes in their last game of the season, that was nearly two weeks ago, and head coach Bruce Arena thinks his team will benefit from the time off. 

"For our team I think it's been a plus," Arena said. "I think we needed a little bit of a break. We've been going all the way through. So, I think it's nice to have had a little bit of a break. Overall it's been good because I do think that we've been challenged throughout the second half of the season. To be able to step away from it a little bit, get a little bit refreshed and then be ready to come in and give it your best effort both mentally and physically, I think the break has been good."

Despite getting enough rest, the Revs will experience a great challenge ahead, and Arena added that his team will be more excited than intimidated heading into the match.

"I think we travel well," Arena said. "I think we've played in some good venues against good teams, so the team is focused on that. It's the same case this weekend. I don't think they'll be intimidated by the environment as much as they'll be excited and looking forward to the challenge. So, I think going on the road is something we've enjoyed."

While Atlanta is the defending MLS Cup Champions, New England is well prepared and ready to rally as underdogs behind both Gil and Bou. 

You can watch the Revs take on Atlanta United Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston or stream it right here.

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The Revolution are a team of destiny and it starts Saturday

The Revolution are a team of destiny and it starts Saturday

Editor's note: I have no idea whether the Revolution are a team of destiny.

The Revolution are a team of destiny.

Think about it. Teams of destiny have been known to:

- Be underdogs

- Hit rock bottom and turn it around

- Rally around a goalie that anyone could have had

- Catch breaks

FOLKS, THAT'S A CHECK-CHECK-CHECK-CHECK.

The Revolution enter Saturday's first-round matchup as No. 7 seeds against the No. 2 Atlanta United FC. There's the underdog part. The team was tied for last in MLS in points when they fired their head coach after a 2-8-2 start. There's the rock bottom. Matt Turner was undrafted out of Fairfield but has been dynamite in goal this season.

As for the breaks, they've gone both ways. Anyone who watched the NYC FC game where the Revs got called for a bogus red card in the first 10 minutes knows the Revs haven't had the best fortune, but they're catching a break and half in the form of Atlanta being without one of their best players.

Atlanta is one of only three teams to beat the Bruce Arena-led Revolution. They had star defender Miles Robinson for that game though, and they won't Saturday. Robinson, who is from Arlington (cool!) finished third in MLS Defender of the Year voting. I don't know how soccer is, ya know, played, but I imagine he would have been a big part of Atlanta's efforts to stop New England's duo of Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil.

  • SATURDAY 1:00pm: New England Revolution at Atlanta United FC
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The Revs are also good on the road. They're 3-2-5 under Arena on the road, but one of those losses absolutely doesn't count because it was that stupid NYC FC game. At any rate, the Revs don't seem fazed by road environments, which is good because Atlanta gets absolutely crazy for these games. They fill Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which holds over 70,000 people.

When I asked Arena, whom I think is my friend, about his team's ability to play well away from Gillette, he quipped, "we're not smart enough to realize we're on the road." That is classic coaching, calling your players dumb while also acknowledging a strength. Arena is always coaching, even when doing sweet interviews with his friends.

The Revolution provided Boston with the entertaining summer they were missing with the Red Sox. In a single-elimination format, I refuse to accept that a banged-up No. 2 seed is a sure thing to close out a team with as much life as the Revs. I don't think we'll be watching the end of the New England season on Saturday at 1 p.m. I think we're watching the beginning of a run.

See you next week, or whenever the second round of the soccer playoffs are. I don't know when that is.

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Bruce Arena turns the Revolution from MLS bottom dwellers to playoff team in a few short months

Bruce Arena turns the Revolution from MLS bottom dwellers to playoff team in a few short months

You say you want a revolution?  Well, you got one. With Bruce Arena. In Foxboro. It started when the New England Revolution hired him as sporting director and head coach back in May.  At the time, no other MLS team was in a worse position. The Revs had the league's worst record (2W-8L-2D, 8 points), the league's worst goal differential (minus-19), and they were below an expansion side, FC Cincinnati, in the standings.  In its first year in the league this season, FC Cincinnati broke the MLS record for most goals given up in a single season.  Things were bad, bad, bad.  The club didn't want to see if it got worse. Enter Bruce Arena to save the day, well the season. 

Five months later, the Revs are preparing for an improbable MLS Cup Playoff appearance.  Their first-round matchup next Saturday, Oct. 19, won't be easy as they visit Atlanta United FC, defending MLS Cup Champions.  It'll be a tough team to play in a difficult environment.  Playing against defending MLS Cup Champions in front of 70,000-plus fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a challenge, to say the least. Still, regardless of the outcome, the Revs have already won.  Their playoff berth marks an amazing turnaround for this team. 

What happened in between their league-worst start/the hiring Arena, and their playoff-clinching win vs New York City FC on Sept. 29 is nothing short of remarkable.  The team went 9-2-10 in their next 21 games, including an 11-game unbeaten streak this summer.  In that span, they collected 37 points, behind only LAFC (42 points) and NYC FC (41 points).  They earned impressive points on the road against LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers.  They showed they can play with the top teams in the east (NYC, Philadelphia, D.C. United, and Toronto). They dominated the teams they were supposed to beat up (Vancouver and FC Cincinnati).  

The two losses in that 21-game stretch under Arena need some context.  I've excluded the regular-season finale loss because it really was a meaningless match.  The Eastern Conference playoff field was already set on Decision Day with just seedings left to be decided.  The 2-0 defeat to LAFC in August came against the league's best team who set the single-season record for points in a season (72).  There is no shame in losing to LAFC.  The Revs joined a long list of teams - 19 of 23 - who couldn't beat Los Angeles Football Club in 2019.

The other loss was a bitter one to swallow.  It goes down as a 2-1 defeat to New York City FC on paper but doesn't seem like a defeat to me. Toni Delamea, who was originally issued a yellow card for a challenge 9 minutes into the match, was sent off after VAR changed it to a red card.  The league's Independent Review panel rescinded the red card four days later and wiped it completely away.  But the damage was done. The Revs, leading for most of the game, played 80-plus minutes down a man and gave up two second-half goals.  The game-winning goal was a 96th-minute penalty.  

The "Bruce Bump" is real and spectacular and it goes beyond the standings, record and points.  What he's done with the roster is impressive. The group of players he inherited back in the spring is almost identical to what he has now.  Of course, they added Gustavo Bou this summer. La Pantera has been a game-changer since coming to the Revs in a reported club-record signing on July 17. In the past 14 games, he's buried nine goals, fourth-most in MLS in that span. 

Bou's strike rate (0.64 goals/game) is sixth-best this season.  But Arena started New England's revolution before Bou arrived.  He's gotten the most out of Teal Bunbury and Cristian Penilla while helping Carles Gil and Matt Turner elevate their games and name around the league.  Gil was already making an impact as a dynamic player in their attack but now he's in the conversation for MLS Best XI and a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year. Gil is one of two MLS players with at least 10 goals and 10 primary assists this season.  Turner, who showed flashes of National Team material before Arena arrived, has pushed his name into the conversation for Goalkeeper of the Year.  Before that regular-season finale, the Revs goalkeeper ranked third in save percentage. Arena has gotten the absolute most out of this roster.

Off the field, the club has made significant investments this season.  They are set to open up a new state-of-the-art $35 million training facility.  Just this week, the club announced they'll field a USL League One Team, Revolution II, in 2020. 

It's wasn't just a change for the Revs.  It's a revolution for the Revolution and you can count me in. 

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