On Tuesday, more than 62 hours after the Revolution announced that former head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena had resigned, the team finally held its first media availability in which reporters were given a chance to ask about recent events.
Arena, the 71-year-old National Soccer Hall of Fame member, resigned after more than four years with the club following a recent league investigation into allegations that he made “insensitive and inappropriate remarks.” The Revolution revealed the resignation moments after the final whistle of the team’s 1-1 draw against Minnesota United on Saturday night.
Richie Williams, formerly Arena’s assistant and now interim head coach, addressed the fallout of the resignation and its inevitable effect on the team.
First and foremost was the news that the team had canceled a scheduled practice on Tuesday and held meetings as a group.
“We didn’t have training today as we had internal meetings this morning between players, coaches, and management,” said Williams. “[Given] the length of the meetings and what was discussed, we decided as a group collectively that we wouldn’t have training today and would be out tomorrow.”
This was later contradicted following the press conference when The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer and Tom Bogert reported that instead of a “collective” decision, players had refused to train after being provided with insufficient information about the Arena investigation and its outcome during a discussion with team president Brian Bilello on Tuesday morning.
While a Revolution spokesperson said that the team will “defer to the league for any future questions regarding their investigation,” Williams provided some limited answers on the topic.
Asked about the unusual timing of the announcement regarding Arena’s resignation — coming immediately after a game on a Saturday night — Williams said the team had no prior knowledge of the decision.
“We learned about it after the game,” he responded.
As for the players, he noted that the team has kept its focus amid a multi-week investigation in which very little information was shared, even with those in the building.
“I think in terms of the investigation going on,” Williams explained, “the players have been very professional. And basically, they’ve been very good on the field in training. They’ve been very good in the games. We’ve had some positive results and we look forward to continuing that as a team and moving forward.”
He admitted that moving on without the team’s established coach — Arena has more career MLS wins than anyone in league history — can be a difficult challenge, but that he aims to maintain team unity.
“Sometimes, with change, people aren’t necessarily comfortable with that,” Williams acknowledged, “but [there’s] a way to try to bring the team together, not have too much change, encourage everyone to listen.”
On several occasions, Williams repeated the earlier line about the team’s statement, saying that “any questions regarding the investigation I have to refer to the league.”
One particular moment came when Sam Minton of The Blazing Musket asked Williams about an earlier report from Maurer and Bogert in which Williams himself was named as having filed complaints in the Arena investigation.
“Do you feel that your reported involvement in the investigation will have any effect on your ability to coach over the rest of the season?” Minton asked.
“I understand why you’re asking the question,” said Williams, “but I’ve said everything I’m going to say on the subject already, and again, I’d have to refer you to the league.”
There was also no additional information provided about the nature of Arena’s “insensitive and inappropriate remarks,” or about why the investigation dragged on for more than a month. In addition, the league has not released the results of its investigation.
Originally, New England captain Carles Gil was scheduled to speak to reporters after Williams, but the club revealed at the start of the press conference that the Spaniard would not be talking on Tuesday.
Williams did offer more on Arena when asked about his history with the former coach. The two have an extensive background working together, stretching back to Williams’s playing career (both in college and when he helped Arena win the first two MLS Cups with D.C. United in 1996 and 1997).
“I’ve been with Bruce since I was an 18-year-old in college at the University of Virginia,” said the 53-year-old Williams. “Four years at Virginia, played for Bruce at D.C. United, with the national team, and I’ve coached with Bruce in many different places. So yeah, Bruce definitely had a big influence on me with my career.”
Now, Williams will have to try his hand without his longtime boss.
Despite the recent turmoil around the team, the Revolution remain second in the Eastern Conference, potentially poised for a playoff run. Williams will try to keep the players’ focus on the field as much as possible, especially with New England set to travel to Colorado for a Saturday matchup against the Rapids at 9:30 p.m.
And as far as the team’s long-term objective, nothing has changed.
“Our goal is always to get into the MLS Cup and win a championship,” Williams said.
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