Arena on Zolak & Bertrand: Revs look to extend unbeaten streak to nine games
Still on top of the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution are continuing their three-game road swing with a visit to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night as they take on Inter Miami CF. The Revs are coming off a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC last weekend where forward Bobby Wood tallied his third goal of the season in the 19th minute.
Wood’s performance is nothing new for Head Coach and Sporting Director Bruce Arena, who joined Marc Bertrand, Hardy, and Matt McCarthy on Zolak & Bertrand.
“He’s a good, experienced player. A majority of his career was in Germany, and I had him with the [United States] National Team, so I was well aware of his skillset. He’s 31 years old and he’s a good, experienced player,” Arena said of the New England striker. “When fit, he’s good. He has good pace, he’s tactically very sound, and we saw in the game in Toronto that his presence on the field was obviously critically important. He did a good job stripping their center backs and producing the first goal and he had a real steady performance for us.”
At 7-1-3, New England is off to a similar start to its record-breaking 2021 season – a campaign that ended with the club lifting the Supporters’ Shield for the first time in team history. Arena noted how difficult it is to put together a balanced roster each year that’s capable of producing results game in and game out, regardless of sport.
“You have to have the right characteristics, and that takes time, so we had a real good year in 2021. Last year we didn’t get it right. This year we’re a little closer to getting it correct, so that’s a challenge and you see that in every sport. Sometimes you have to get a little bit lucky as well, so that’s the only way I can explain it. It’s never easy and you hope through experiences you can turn things around a lot quicker than perhaps some other people.”
An important part of building that roster starts with a skilled goalkeeper, a box the Revolution have been able to check off during Arena’s tenure with Matt Turner and now Djordje Petrović. The Serbian keeper has recorded 12 shutouts since his MLS debut last June and it didn’t take Arena long to know he was New England’s top target following Turner’s departure to Arsenal.
“I saw Petrović on film and probably within two minutes I said, ‘let’s get this guy.’ He was a young player, playing in Serbia, in not a really high quality team, but his characteristics just stared me in the face, and I thought that he had a lot of promise and when we got him here, we thought the same thing. It was a little rough for a couple of months, but we’re fortunate we still had Matt Turner, and he worked on a daily basis with Matt and Kevin [Hitchcock] and you could see he had great potential and he’s just taken off.”
Trusting Petrović has allowed Arena to shift the defensive mindset of New England’s backline, a unit that has logged five shutout performances in 2023, one behind the MLS lead, while conceding just one goal from open play over its last six games.
“If your goalkeeping is not a strong position, you have to really be careful about closing the ball down and not letting people shoot from 18, 20 yards,” Arena said. “With Djordje, we don’t care. We say to anyone shooting from outside the penalty area, ‘You’re welcome to try.’”
Petrović and the Revs will look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine on Saturday night as New England and Miami will kick off at 7:30 p.m. from DRV PNK Stadium. Brad Feldman and Charlie Davies will have the call on 98.5 The Sports Hub with the match streaming for free on Apple TV.