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frank dell’apa | soccer notes

Revolution have regained their confidence under Bruce Arena

The Revolution seem to have gotten a “new-coach bump” from Bruce Arena.
The Revolution seem to have gotten a “new-coach bump” from Bruce Arena.(steven senne/AP)

For many, the lasting image of Bruce Arena on a soccer field dates to 2017, at Ato Boldon Stadium in Cueva, Trinidad. The US lost to Trinidad & Tobago, 2-1, on the final day of World Cup qualifying, missing the tournament for the first time since 1986.

Arena did not work after that game until being hired last month by the Revolution. Apparently, he has not lost his winning touch. In fact, Arena appears to have transformed the Revolution. A 3-2 extra-time win over the New York Red Bulls in a US Open Cup match June 11 extended the Revolution’s unbeaten streak to five games in all competitions.

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Not only are they achieving results, they seem confident. They maintain possession on offense. They are composed defensively. They make the game seem easy at times, rather than an uphill struggle.

It has not been only Arena’s influence, though. Mike Lapper, the interim coach Arena replaced May 14, got the Revolution on track after a 2-8-2 start to the season.

The team’s turnaround began with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes May 11, two days after Brad Friedel was fired. Friedel, too, deserves recognition for recruiting much of the current roster, though the Revolution were off to their worst start in their 24 years of existence.

Both changes resulted in new-coach bumps. But Arena seems to be taking the bounce further. There is a feeling that the Revolution can continue to succeed, and even improve.

Arena’s two games in charge have both been on the road — a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy and the win over the Red Bulls in Montclair, N.J. The Revolution have yet to play a home match under Arena. There are league games at Gillette Stadium against Philadelphia next Wednesday and Houston June 29.

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Arena is certainly getting the best out of some players. Teal Bunbury had a 25-game scoreless streak spanning two seasons before Arena’s first match on the bench. Then Bunbury converted the Revolution’s second goal against the Galaxy, and he provided dramatic finishes as they rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Red Bulls, despite playing with a numerical disadvantage during 30 minutes of overtime.

Part of the Arena effect is a boost in team self-belief via his reputation. Arena is also making tactical tweaks and encouraging the Revolution to play a possession game.

Arena is still working on getting the right pieces in place. And the Revolution are only 3 points out of the MLS playoff picture with 18 games remaining.

US men struggle

Meanwhile, neither of Arena’s successors with the US team has equaled his 2017 record of 10-2-6.

Dave Sarachan had a 3-5-4 mark with the US after taking over from his longtime boss on an interim basis. Sarachan has guided North Carolina FC to a 6-2-5 record, sixth place in the USL Championship this season.

Gregg Berhalter has not fared well lately with the US, losing to Jamaica (1-0) in Washington, D.C., and to Venezuela (3-0) in Cincinnati. Berhalter, who had a 3-0-1 start with the US, opened Gold Cup play against Guyana in St. Paul Tuesday, then gets a rematch with Trinidad & Tobago in Cleveland Saturday before playing Panama in Kansas City, Kan., next Wednesday.

Overseas investor

Mediacom Communications Corp. cable magnate Rocco Commisso is the latest US billionaire to invest in a European club, buying into AC Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A.

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Commisso, 69, who once captained the Columbia University soccer team, also has invested in the New York Cosmos, but became discouraged by what was perceived as bias against the team and the league it played in, the North American Soccer League.

A year ago, Commisso offered to inject $500 million into the NASL, as the league’s application for Division 2 status was not accepted by US Soccer. So Commisso has taken several hundred of his millions outside the country, following the path of US investors such as Fenway Sports Group’s John Henry (Liverpool FC) and Celtics co-owner Jim Pallotta (AS Roma).

The Cosmos (8-0-0, 24 points), coached by former Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendes, lead the NPSL North Atlantic Conference going into a match with Boston City FC at Medford’s Hormel Park at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Breaking news

The top four clubs producing Women’s World Cup players this year are Barcelona (15 players from five countries), European champion Lyon (14), then Chelsea and Manchester City (12 each).

Remarkably, a team that would rank right below those European powers is one that no longer exists: the Boston Breakers, who folded in 2017. There are 11 former Breakers representing seven countries in the WWC.

An all ex-Breakers team performing in the WWC includes:

■   goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (US)

■   defenders Kelley O’Hara (US), Alyssha Chapman (Canada), Emilie Haavi (Norway), Aya Sameshima (Japan)

■   midfielders Rose Lavelle (US), Fabiana Da Silva Simoes (Brazil), Sam Mewis (US), Rosie White (New Zealand)

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■   forwards Lisa De Vanna (Australia) and Adriana Leon (Canada)

The Breakers’ best finish during a five-year NWSL run was fifth place in 2013. They finished in last place in 2015 and ’16 and tied for last in ’17 in a 10-team league. In average attendance, they were seventh in 2016 and eighth in ’17.

NWSL teams’ salary cap is set at $421,500. Lyon, which won its fourth successive Champions League title (4-1 victory over Barcelona), has a payroll of about $3.3 million.


Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com