By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Let me make one thing clear: I never want Bruce Arena near the U.S. Men’s National Team again.
But as the head coach of the New England Revolution? Sign me up.
The Revs got it right by hiring Arena as their new head coach and sporting director Tuesday. He is arguably the most successful coach in MLS history and brings instant credibility to an organization that sorely needed it.
The Revs have fallen on hard times in recent years. They have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and have opened this season with a dismal 3-8-2 record, good for just 11 points and last place in the Eastern Conference. Long gone are the days of Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, and Shalrie Joseph.
The 44-game Brad Friedel era can be viewed as nothing short of a disaster, and former general manager Mike Burns did little to instill confidence that the Revs were headed in the right direction.
A major change was needed, and Arena represents that necessary shakeup.
The great irony is that Arena never represented change in his last position. He was nothing more than a retread when he was brought back for a second stint in charge of the national team in 2016, a desperation move as the Jurgen Klinsmann era crumbled.
It didn’t work.
Arena became the face of everything that needs to change with U.S. soccer when the Red, White, and Blue failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Their loss in Trinidad and Tobago to miss out on the tournament is the darkest moment in American soccer history, and Arena was the man in charge when it happened.
That type of blemish can never be erased.
No matter. Arena’s record in MLS cannot be denied. No coach has won more titles than him in league history. A move like this needed to be made.
For the Kraft family, hiring a big name like Arena signals to Revs fans that they are committed to turning this team around. Many Revs fans have called into the question the Krafts willingness to field a legitimate soccer team, but there is no questioning their commitment when it comes to this decision. Arena surely didn’t come cheap.
But that commitment can’t stop with the head coach, it needs to extend the roster.
Simply put, the Revs aren’t good enough right now. Arena takes over a team that is a far cry from the rosters he had when he was winning championships in LA. There is no Landon Donovan on this team. There is no David Beckham. There is no Robbie Keane.
That needs to change.
Arena had legitimate international talent with the Galaxy, but he won’t have it here. The last decade has proven that star power works in MLS. It’s time for the Revs to bring in players fans can get excited about.
Wayne Rooney turned D.C. United from cellar-dwellers into instant winners. Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominated for L.A. after arriving stateside last year. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley helped lead Toronto FC to the league title two years ago.
Players like that could work in New England, too. It’s already worked before.
In August of 2014, the Revs brought in midfielder Jermaine Jones, fresh off a strong World Cup for the United States. Jones elevated the Revolution to the MLS Cup Final that year, but a messy contract dispute led to his trade at the beginning of the 2016 season.
Of course, it’s unlikely that the Revolution will get heavily involved in the star international market without a stadium solution. Realistically, the organization just can’t invest in a soccer team that is only drawing 10,000 fans a game to Foxboro.
A new home in Boston would change all that. Until that happens, everything with the Revs seems to be in a holding pattern.
They don’t have a stadium yet, but they’ve added an Arena. That’s a start.
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.