Expect better performance and more goals in 2021, that’s the message New England Revolution coach Bruce Arena had when he joined Zolak & Bertrand for his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Previewing their opening match for the 2021 season, Arena touted his roster this year as better than last, spoke about the Revolution’s pre-season performance, and expressed how excited the team was to have fans in the stands once again at Gillette Stadium.
Marc Bertrand Joining us now on the Volkswagen Dealers’ Expert Hotline, sporting director and coach of the Revs, Bruce Arena is with us.
Bruce Arena Gentlemen, good afternoon.
Marc Bertrand Ready to get going?
Bruce Arena I’m ready. I don’t know if the players are, but I’m ready.
Scott Zolak Hey, obviously, you know, we’ve been talking about the pandemic with you and playing through it. How important are these first three games for that U.S. cup? Because the teams that qualify with the most points there early are going to get invited to that. You know, normally it’s you know, it’s instant. But what the pandemic, it’s kind of shrunk down.
Bruce Arena It’s important. I think out of the first three games we have to win two of them to be in position to qualify for the Open Cup. And I think for our team and this particular time where we are, it’s important we’re in competition to try to win a trophy because we haven’t won one around here in a while. So, you know, we’re going to push as hard as we can to try to get results in these first three games to qualify for the Open Cup.
Marc Bertrand So coming back this season, given that you guys came on strong at the end of last year, do you feel like your team is is even better now than it was then?
Bruce Arena I think we have a better roster. I think we’re in better form to start the season this year than we were last year. Whether that converts into wins, we’re going to find out, I guess, on Saturday. But I’m confident that we have everything in place to be a better team in 2021.
Hardy There was some movement and there’s some I guess maybe not growing pains, but deciding who is going to play where and how things were working out, especially when it when it came to getting a guy down low as a striker, a forward. Have you worked through some more of that in training early in this year? And do you feel better about just the offensive weaponry that you have and how those guys are playing together right now?
Bruce Arena You know, we’ve had a good pre-season. We’ve played what everybody thinks is the best team in the league in LAFC, over the last two weekends and we scored five goals in two games within our sport is a lot of goals. And we were dangerous, we could have scored more goals. We had four in another pre-season game. I think without a doubt in my mind, we’re going to score more goals in 2021. And if we can be more consistent in the defensive end of the field with our outstanding goalkeeper Matt Turner, it should convert to more wins. I really believe we have the better team. We’re going to be able to score goals and hopefully we can continue to be a team that’s strong on the defensive end of the field as well.
Marc Bertrand You know, to your younger players that are still developing and Henry Kessler and Tejan Buchanan, they add some games they played in the CONCACAF for the U.S. and Canada. What are those games sort of add to players when they’re when they’re continuing to grow and continue to be better players?
Bruce Arena Well, I think it gives them more confidence, international soccer is a different experience for the players and it’s a real positive. It still was an age competition, U-23. So, you know, I don’t think that’s a drastic change for those players when they move back into our team, which is real senior competition, it’s a little different as well. But I think those games give them a lot of confidence. They came back here eager to play. And, you know, I think those two players that if they continue to grow professionally, they’re going to be able to play for the senior national teams one day.
Scott Zolak Does it feel like there’s a little more normalcy for you guys dealing with, you know, the everyday stuff, the travel, you know, playing in Chicago this weekend.
Bruce Arena Yeah, without a doubt. You know, we’re still dealing with some COVID protocol. So we’re going to travel the same day. But we did that all last year, didn’t blink an eye. So we should be fine, go to all that. But it’s you know, it’s great to be back in Foxborough and it’s great to think that we’re actually going to play a home game in about a week and a half now in Gillette with fans. So that’s that’s a real positive as well. So we’re hopeful that 2021 is a little bit more consistent in the way we normally do things. And, you know, we’re hopeful we bring a better team into Gillette Stadium this year because, you know, I think we’ve got a strong roster and there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful.
Marc Bertrand So outside of covered issues and protocols, where’s your team at health-wise? Heading into the years, everybody, you know, feeling good and ready to go?
Bruce Arena Well, generally pretty healthy, you know, we have a couple of minor injuries that I think in another week or two our whole roster can be completely healthy. You know, we’re hopeful that we can, you know, put a pretty solid team on the field when we go to Chicago. And I think by next weekend, when we open up against DC United, we should have all of our players available. So hopefully, you know, we can get through game one and come back here and have our team really ready to go for our fans, which we have missed over the past year. So we’re really looking forward to getting back in Gillette.
Hardy All right. Well, I’m looking forward to the offensive prediction of yours between Gil and Bou and getting those guys another year of playing together. I mean, there’s no substitute for experience and being able to have those guys out there together. I just you know, I wouldn’t expect that unless you said it Bruce. Now, that’s now that’s what we’re all going to be waiting for, more goals in 2021. It sounds like a campaign sticker.
Bruce Arena If Gil and Bou and Buska and Buchanan and Bunbury remain healthy, there’s no reason to believe we’re not going to score more goals.
Marc Bertrand I like it. All right, coach, coach of the season, looking forward to talking to you every week.
Bruce Arena Thanks, man. Look forward to talking to you next week. Hopefully we have one win under our belt.
Scott Zolak Right. All right, Coach, thank you.
Marc Bertrand Thanks. Bruce Arena on the Volkswagen dealers expert hotline. Getting ready for the start of the season, Saturday night.