The New England Revolution are set to kick off their 2020 campaign north of the border against the Montreal Impact this weekend, and the team couldn't be more excited.
Obviously, the 2019 season had many positives with the Revs making the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but also had many negatives -- including starting the season on a sour note with former head coach Brad Friedel.
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Current head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena took over in May, and the club quickly turned things around. With a new season upon us, Arena discussed how beginning the season with the team, and not coming in at the midway point, will benefit the Revolution in the long run.
"Well, we all knew each other to start the preseason," Arena told Zolak and Bertrand Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub. "We've had a good four to five weeks of preseason, so we're building team concepts. We've strengthened our roster with some additions. One would like to believe we're positioned to have a much better first half of the season in 2020 than we did in 2019."
Those additions have come in the form of striker Adam Buksa, defenders Alexander Buttner and Seth Sinovic, and midfielder Kelyn Rowe. While the newly aquired players certainly will help the squad perform up to expectations, Arena detailed the differences that will help his club find more success this season.
"I think we're a more experienced team, a more balanced team with some of the additions we have," Arena said. "Gustavo Bou is going to be a better player this year because of the experience of last year and his dedication in the offseason. We think most of our veteran players return in good form and we're excited about them leading us. I think Matt Turner, a year older, is going to be better in the goal. Brandon Bye is going to be a better right back this year. DeJuan Jones is improved. So, we're excited to see how they look on the field once the MLS season starts."
Before joining the Revolution ahead of the 2019 season, Bou spent time with Liga MX side Tijuana in Mexico. Players coming from that specific league can encounter some difficulty while transitioning to the MLS, but Bou didn't struggle too often. After notching nine goals in 2019, Bou set his sights higher by taking his training up a notch -- and Arena detailed why the 30-year-old will reach new heights this season.
"Well, he's a lot fitter than he was last year," Arena said. "He knows the league, he knows his teammates and he's got a much greater comfort level. He's become a real leader on the team. So, everything is adding up for Gustavo [Bou] to have a very good season."
Bou isn't the only one who's set up for success, either. Buksa is sure to play a major role on the offensive side of things for New England in his first season with the Revolution, and he's become a very good fit for the squad who will need him to be on the top of his game while Carles Gil recovers from a foot injury.
"He's fit in well, and over the last two weeks he's really gotten comfortable and we really believe he's a player that can score goals for us," Arena said. "He's beginning to fit in with a lot of the players in the attacking part of the field. He's got a great attitude, a great engine. He's a good finisher with his speed, with his head. He has good size, he's 6'3-6'4. I think he's a great addition and I'm hopeful that he gets off to a good start."
With the addition of players like Buksa, and the team ready to put on a show, Arena is looking forward to the fan support at Gillette Stadium come the Revs' season opener in March.
"I went to a season ticket holder event a couple of weeks ago and the enthusiasm was great," Arena said. "We're hopeful for our opening game on March 7 that we get a big crowd and hopefully the weather cooperates a bit. I think we're going to be an exciting team for our fan base. We look forward to a great 2020."
Those fans are going to bring with them some pretty high expectations, but Arena is confident his club can match those expectations and prove themselves worthy.
"If you want to compete in this city with the other teams then you better win," Arena said. "We're excited about that challenge and we love being in this environment. We like the praise, we're not crazy about the criticism, but that's all part of it. If we want to be one of the good teams in this city then we have to win games."
The Revs went 2-2-1 in preseason action on the west coast under Arena, and will begin the season on Saturday in Montreal at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston.