Change of pace

Revs need to win revolution, but can it be done with rival at helm?

In midst of recent impressive unbeaten streak, Revs back in Major League Soccer championship hunt
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Jul 30, 2019

The enemy has come behind the line.

That was my first thought when it officially was announced Bruce Arena would take the reins of my beloved New England Revolution soccer team.

Why couldn't Matt Lapper (interim coach) stay on? He was doing phenomenal, having immediately halted the brakes on this ugly wreck of a mess that has been the 2019 Major League Soccer season.

This absolutely has to be a joke. Is it April Fool's day?

This is one of those fodder tabloid headlines like you see during the transfer windows in the British Premiere League. It just has to be.

The last time I was this stressed about a coaching change was when they brought on the always mediocre, Brad Friedel.

That was a cringe-worthy decision, and the entire Midnight Riders, Rev Army, and the Rebellion (fan groups of the Revolution for those of you reading that don't follow the sport or the team) as a whole groaned along with me on that one.

And rightfully so.

Under Friedel, the Revolution fell, taking a loss in their home-opener this season, against Columbus Crew.

Why is this a big deal? 2006 is the last time the Revolution lost a home-opener.

The losing didn't stop.

The Revolution were most definitely not winning any revolutions.

Looking back on the last few years, it's hard to believe it when I say: The Revolution were once a good team.

The Revs started as a so-so team. You could count on a "bottom of the top-five" finish for the season, and that was about it.

My first real Revs game was in 2000 at Foxborough Stadium. I was a junior in high school, and I remember that season very well. After all of those so-so seasons, there was the Revs, sitting second on the table.

The Revs finally found their feet in the game of footie.

Then, in a brilliant move on behalf of owner Robert Kraft, and the Kraft family (you know, of the New England Patriots, Kraft Group also happen to own the Revs), they signed Steve Nicols as head coach, and wonderful things happened.

Wins.

Lots of them. Also, playoffs. Under Nicols as the interim coach, before realizing how beneficial it would be to have him on board, the Revs got their first MLS Cup finals game.

In 2002, a few weeks after watching, in person, the magic of that team, which finished first in the conference that year, the Revs lost the final. To the Los Angeles Galaxy.

That's how it was, the pesky Galaxy. They always stopped the Revs like a brick wall.

In five finals appearances, the Revs always went winless. That's right — no cup for the Revs.

After a few years of fumbling with former Revolution player, Jay Heaps, as head coach, the Krafts brought in Friedel.

And to the bottom of the table went the Revs. Gone was the record set for home-opener wins. Fans sat on the sidelines, frustrated, angry, wanting to throw their trumpets and mock muskets at the Krafts.

To say fans don't have faith in the Krafts and their intentions with the Revolution is an understatement.

A telescope, or even a pair of children's binoculars are not needed to see the stark difference in how the Revolution and the Patriots are handled.

Little money for players or development. The choices in head coaches, which yes, I know, also comes down to a managerial decision too. There has been talk for over a decade of building a soccer-specific stadium, and nothing ever pans out.

A little golden nugget gets dangled in the faces of the Rebellion, talks have started again about a new stadium for the Revs, but then the nugget gets yanked back.

Instead of a new stadium, better suited for the game, the Krafts built a new training facility.

And kept Friedel.

Did they want to win, or lose?

Because the Revs were certainly not winning. Kelyn Rowe, one of the standouts for the Revs, fled to Kansas City and didn't look back it was so bad.

I won't lie, I miss the team row on the sidelines after Rowe would score.

There they sat, my precious Revs, bottom of the table. I had to stop watching the matches, it hurt. There wasn't any sign, or talks of giving Friedel the old heave-ho.

Then I woke up one morning to a late Christmas surprise. Friedel was gone, and Mike Lapper was interim coach. Lapper had been the assistant coach for the previous season, and immediately started bringing the team around.

The game play was different. Gone was the reliance on Carles Gil to do all and be all out on the pitch. Teal Bunbury found his soccer cleats again, and reminded us that he is a solid, quality-performing player. We once again saw Juan Agudelo's quick feet in action.

Under Lapper, the losing stopped. The Revs even held a Wayne Rooney-wielding D.C. United to a draw — and that's with the Revs down a man for the last nearly 40 minutes of the game.

Then the announcement came, Bruce Arena was to be the head coach.

The enemy was coming into the locker room, and manning the team.

Why is he the enemy?

Well, for starters, he coached the rivals of the Revs, the MetroStars/The New York Red Bulls.

When the MetroStars was sold, and rebranded, they brought in Arena to kick off this new, fresh-looking team.

Then he moved on to the Galaxy, and put the kibosh on yet another Revs championship chance.

The enemy.

I also laughed a bit when I heard the news. The Galaxy and the Revs couldn't be any more different in terms of the owners backing of the teams. I didn't figure Arena would be happy and settle in at the Revs because, well, the Krafts hold their wallets close when it comes to the Revs.

The winning that started under Lapper, continued, naturally, under Arena. Even beating the Red Bulls and the Galaxy. Up, up, up the table the Revs crept from their very, very, very last place.

Then it happened.

The Revs signed La Pantera himself, Gustavo Bou. Bou signed on with the Revs in early July in what is considered for the Revs, a record deal. And it is, trust when I agree with the reports that are all equally shocked that the Krafts actually put forth an attractive amount of money to pull in a player.

Do the Krafts ... care?

Bou, during the first half of his first MLS match, pitting the Revs against Vancouver's Whitecaps, sent a snappy, phenomenal volley into the net, snagging his first MLS goal.

Homegrown player, Diego Fagundez scored, then Bunbury, then Gil.

Four to nothing, or, four-nil as we would say in my house.

Sure, the Whitecaps sit somewhere at the bottom of the table for the conference, but a win is a win, is a win.

And on that pitch, the Revs were playing so much like the Revs I remember from my high school days, and the years after.

Good.

I dare say even, amazing.

Do I have hope for the playoffs?

Yes. Because the Revs have found themselves edged just over the line, putting them in the clear. And with them making a go at a history making win-streak, and no signs of stopping, it's a very real possibility.

But also, much like the days of old, as someone who has been watching for 25 years, I also have seen how quickly the Revs can say goodbye to a chance at a playoff run.

Even if the Revs make it, and somehow finally pull off that MLS Cup win?

I still won't like Arena.

But maybe it'll help me warm up to the idea of him. A little.

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