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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Revolution unveil new kits, react to 1996-style tribute: 'Our whole club is about history'

Revolution unveil new kits, react to 1996-style tribute: 'Our whole club is about history'

The New England Revolution, along with the rest of the teams in Major League Soccer, unveiled their new kits for the upcoming 2020 season in New York City on Wednesday -- and they are gorgeous.

"I think the fans are really going to like it and enjoy it," said Teal Bunbury, according to

The Revs are throwing it back with an updated version of the classic look they sported in 1996, calling it "The Original," and they had a little help with the reveal from former player Alexi Lalas.

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The red shorts, in particular, bring the whole kit together -- adding more color than in previous years. The only year New England wore red shorts as part of the kit was during the 1996 season. Bringing them back has made the current team reflect on how important it is to respect the history of the MLS.

"I think our whole club is about history," said Kelyn Rowe. "Since I've been here it's about supporting history, making history and making sure we respect everything that came before you."

Rowe, who has returned to the Revolution after spending the 2019 season with Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, was particularly hyped about the new look.

Current Revolution President, Brian Billelo, also was pretty excited about the unveiling.

"I think we're all excited to put it on and get into games and play with it," Revolution striker Diego Fagundez said of the new uniforms.

New England's new kits aren't the only thing being upgraded this year. With their first full season under head coach Bruce Arena, the Revs are set to reach new heights than in years past after a first-round playoff exit last season.

The Revolution will kick off the regular season with a trip to visit the Montreal Impact on Feb. 29 after five preseason games on the west coast.



Carles Gil, Revolution teammates eager to pick up where they left off

Carles Gil, Revolution teammates eager to pick up where they left off

In his first season with the New England Revolution, midfielder Carles Gil accomplished more than he could've imagined.

After starting out the 2019 season on a rather sour note, Gil and his teammates quickly turned things around when Bruce Arena was hired as head coach and sporting director in May. The midfielder notched 10 goals and 14 assists through 34 games -- with a majority of those points coming after Arena was hired.

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The Revolution quickly adapted to Arena's style, and were able to make an appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015. Unfortunately, the Revs fell to Atlanta United FC in the first round, but are ready to build upon their second half performance.

“Going into this year, we feel really inspired,” Gil said, according to Jeff Lemieux of “We feel we have the pieces in place, and with another year under our belts to kind of know Bruce (Arena), hopefully that all works out well for us.

“I think our number one goal is just to pick up where we left off last year. Obviously we didn’t have a really good start to the season, but we figured things out. Right now, we’re just trying to pick up on the good things we developed last year and reach our goals.”

New England's goals, according to what Arena has noted in the past, have been to improve and be a good team rather than win titles. If they can do that, then the titles will come soon thereafter.

Individually, Gil wants to improve upon his first campaign in the MLS, and he very well could now that he's settled in.

“I know the team, I know the organization, I know the coaches and my teammates,” Gil said. “I also know the league and how things work on that end, so hopefully that works in my favor, and hopefully I can have a better year than the year I had last year.”

After winning the MLS Newcomer of the Year award, MLS Best XI honors, JetBlue Revolution Team MVP, Players' Player of the Year and Midnight Riders Man of the Year in his first season with the Revolution, it'll definitely be interesting to see how things go for the 27-year-old during the upcoming season.