New England players refused to train amid Arena exit – sources

Jeff Carlisle, U.S. soccer correspondentSep 12, 2023, 08:13 PM ET

CloseJeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

New England Revolution players refused to train on Tuesday in response to a lack of clarity over the circumstances that led to Bruce Arena’s resignation as manager, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.

The Athletic was the first to report the news.

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Arena resigned Saturday following a nearly six-week investigation by the law firm Proskauer Rose, which was hired by MLS to look into allegations of “insensitive and inappropriate remarks” made by the now former Revs manager.

Arena was initially placed on administrative leave, with the team being managed on an interim basis by assistant coach Richie Williams.

Later on Tuesday, the Revolution announced in a statement that Clint Peay, the head coach of Revolution II, would now serve as the club’s first-team interim head coach, supported by his Revolution II assistant Marcelo Santos.

New England also said it had parted ways with assistant coaches Dave van den Bergh and Shalrie Joseph. Sources had told ESPN that a schism developed within the staff, with Joseph and Van den Bergh firmly in Arena’s camp.

It is unclear what those changes mean for the future of Williams, with the club saying it will hold a news conference on Wednesday with president Brian Bilello and technical director Curt Onalfo.

New England Revolution drew 1-1 with Minnesota United on the night Bruce Arena resigned as the club’s manager. Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

MLS, in a statement released Saturday, indicated the investigation “confirmed certain of these allegations” and that if Arena wished to work in the league again, he would have to file a petition to MLS commissioner Don Garber.

A report in The Athletic asserted that complaints filed by Williams were part of the investigation.

During Tuesday’s media availability, Williams said the decision to not train was made by players and staff “as a group collectively.”

But sources tell ESPN that during a meeting between players and staff, which included Williams, Onalfo, Bilello and a representative from human resources, players asked Williams to elaborate on the extent of his involvement in the investigation.

When Bilello indicated that they couldn’t respond to that question, the players reacted negatively to the lack of transparency and decided they wouldn’t train.

A second meeting between players and the coaching staff took place afterward in which Williams once again said he couldn’t answer their questions.

The circumstances surrounding the investigation into Arena and his eventual resignation threaten to turn a once-promising season into turmoil.

With Williams in charge, the Revs have gone just 1-1-3 in league play, with another two draws in the Leagues Cup. New England remains in second place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points from 27 matches, nine points behind first-place FC Cincinnati.

When asked about how united the staff was, Williams responded: “Just in terms of the staff, with me personally as the interim head coach, they’ve asked me to take over, to be the coach until the end of the season, hopefully into the playoffs and to a championship, and that’s obviously what I’m going to be doing moving forward.

“And again, it’s been a very good response over the last six weeks from the players and results-wise and maintaining our second-place standing in the league.”


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