If you watched the New England Revolution at the beginning of the year, you’d be surprised at how they’re playing now.
The Brad Friedel Era ended on May 9 with the Revs holding a 2-8-2 record. Since then, the club has gone an undefeated 2-0-3. It’s a record that reflects a team that’s been composed defensively and opportunistic offensively. This change stems from the confidence that the coaching staff has imparted on its players.
The departure of Friedel led to Mike Lapper being named as the interim head coach. The players instantly praised the long-time assistant, noting that they were told to be themselves. A similar message has been conveyed to the locker room with Bruce Arena at the helm.
“He’s instilled confidence in everybody,” Jalil Anibaba said after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union. “The biggest thing I think he’s helping all of us with is confidence and enjoyment. He’s brought that back. Everybody is having a good time.”
There might be no greater evidence of this than the play of Juan Agudelo. On Wednesday, the attacker was unabashed when taking people on. At times it looked like he was out to add to his mix tape, as he provided moments that reminded fans of his Swagudelo nickname.
“It’s special when a coach gives you that confidence to go forward,” Agudelo said. “It definitely made me go for nutmegs, go attack the defenders and everything.”
Part of what makes Arena special is his composed, confident demeanor. As a five-time MLS Cup winner and winningest coach in UMSNT history, it’s safe to say that Arena knows how to get the most out of his players.
Training sessions have been short and sharp, leaving players fresh and ready to play on game day. Feedback has been simple and easy to implement, which ensures that no one feels overwhelmed.
So far Revs players have been responsive to the coaching style of Arena.
“Today, with me, if he felt like I was dribbling too much, calmly he says, ‘a bit quicker.’ Not aggressively,” Agudelo said. “It’s a big deal. Small, little things [like that] are actually helping us a lot. That’s why we have a pretty good record with him.”
Outsiders are also aware of the progress that the Revs have made under their new coach. Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin stated it was difficult to breakdown their opponent on Wednesday, which is a stark difference from their last meeting on May 4. On that night, the Revs were handed a 6-1 loss.
Having known Arena for some time, Curtin isn’t surprised by this. In fact, he predicts that more success will come with more time.
“He’s a winner,” Curtin explained. “He wins everywhere he goes. This is just the beginning for them. I know he’s going to get them back on top in the Eastern Conference, we just hope it’s not this year.