Eight sources, including several current team employees, said the complaints filed by New England Revolution assistant coach Richie Williams are part of an investigation into the conduct of Bruce Arena, who resigned as Revolution head coach and athletic director on Saturday night.
Williams was coaching the Revolution on an interim basis while Arena was on administrative leave due to an MLS investigation into alleged “inappropriate and insensitive remarks” he made. Major League Soccer announced after this story was published on Saturday that “certain” allegations have been confirmed and that Arena will have to petition the commissioner if he is to pursue future employment within the league.
Sources familiar with the investigation said some of the questions asked by investigators centered around comments Arena allegedly made behind closed doors and to his coaching staff.
Multiple sources said Arena met with MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Tuesday to discuss the investigation. Those sources also said Arena was present at the offices of the NFL’s New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Thursday to meet with members of the Kraft family, which owns the Patriots as well as the Revolution. It was under contract At least through next season.
All 12 sources interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation and events surrounding it publicly. MLS policy generally prohibits its teams and employees from doing so.
Representatives for Arena, Williams and Major League Soccer declined to comment on Williams’ involvement in the investigation or any other details about the investigation itself. The New England Revolution could not be reached for comment Saturday evening. Following the Revolution’s 1-1 draw against Minnesota United in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Revolution suddenly canceled the team’s usual post-match press conference with Williams.
“I know I made some mistakes, and moving forward, I plan to spend some time reflecting on this situation and taking corrective steps to address what happened,” Arena said in a statement.
What we know about Bruce Arena’s mysterious absence
Arena was placed on administrative leave on August 1, with Williams taking over as interim head coach and head coach Curt Onalvo named interim athletic director. The investigation, conducted by outside law firm Proskauer Rose, was announced simultaneously.
Williams has a long history with Arena dating back to his playing days at the University of Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s, where Arena was his head coach. He was an important part of Arena’s DC United squad during the club’s championship run in the mid-1990s and has coached alongside Arena in various capacities in MLS and with US Soccer. Williams joined the revolution in 2019.
When Arena received a multi-year contract extension with the Revolution before the 2022 season, much of the Revolution’s athletic staff — Williams, Onalvo, assistant coaches Shali Joseph and Dave van den Berg and goalie coach Kevin Hitchcock — were not extended, multiple sources said. Familiar with Revolution front office operations. These sources said that Arena, Williams and Onalfo clashed during the 2022 and 2023 seasons due to disagreements between the club’s sporting direction and tactics. Those same sources said Onalfo clashed with Arena over player signings in particular, and before Arena’s suspension, he was largely sidelined from player decisions.
Onalvo has a long history with Arena that also dates back to the late 1990s. Arena has worked with the former MLS player in some capacity for large stretches of the past two decades during stints with DC United, LA Galaxy and the USMNT.
Sources said Williams was informed earlier this season that he would not return as a member of the Arena staff in 2024; On Friday, multiple sources said that Arena, earlier this year, suggested to Williams’ representation that he find a landing spot for his then-assistant.
The sources said The athlete Players and staff were not initially given specific details as to why Arena was under investigation, and those allegations against Arena have not yet been made public. He was initially removed from the team in the days before the investigation was announced, with players being told Arena would be gone “for some time” without any explanation. In the weeks following New England’s announcement, the league, in collaboration with Proskauer Rose, conducted interviews with coaches, staff and players in the Revolution. As of Friday, Revolution players have not yet been informed of Arena’s future with the club.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, who worked under Arena at the LA Galaxy and the US national team before New England, publicly expressed his support for his coach on August 17.
“It’s strange what’s happening, and we still have no idea what happened or what’s going on,” Gonzalez said. Morning Footy on CBS Sports Golazo. “The players are hoping that Bruce will be back soon and ready to start the second half of the season and continue the path we have been on.”
Several other current players and employees, all of whom requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, expressed their support for Arena. “Bruce is a good man,” one said. “I have no complaints about him as a coach or as a person.” Another player described Arena as the “last player’s coach” in the MLS and said players generally welcomed his presence in the locker room. Other players declined to comment.
One of Arena’s assistants, former Revolution player Shali Joseph, made his feelings public in an Instagram post last week. “Thank you for being the man you are,” Joseph wrote. “I appreciate every lesson and early morning conversations we used to have… I love you, big guy.”
Last month, Revolutionary Captain Carles Gil made his feelings public while speaking to him The athlete During the early stages of the investigation. At the time, Gil said he never heard Arena say anything inappropriate.
“My experience with Bruce was very good,” the 30-year-old former Aston Villa midfielder said. “All the coaches I’ve worked with have helped me in some way. With Bruce, I have a great relationship. I’m the captain of this team, so I try to represent the whole locker room when I talk to him and honestly, I have a very good relationship with him.
Arena, 71, began his soccer coaching career in 1977. He is the most decorated professional coach in American soccer history, having won five MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields, a U.S. Open Cup and a CONCACAF Championship over 17 seasons. As president of the American Football League. Coach with DC United, New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and Revolution.
He also led the US men’s national team to the World Cup finals in 2006 and 2002, with the team achieving its best finish in a men’s World Cup in the modern era in the latter tournament, where it reached the quarterfinals. Arena once again took the reins of the NFL after Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked in 2017 amid a faltering qualifying campaign. Arena was unable to right the ship and the American men missed the World Cup for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Arena has also been one of the most outspoken figures in American soccer, widely known for his honest and forthright approach when addressing any number of issues, from league arbitration and roster regulations to the overall state of soccer in America. In 2018, shortly after Arena took over for Jurgen Klinsmann during the United States’ doomed 2018 World Cup qualifiers, he criticized US Soccer and another group of players in “What’s Wrong with Us?”, a book he co-authored. Commentator and author Steve Kitman.
Two years later, Arena was suspended for three games during the MLS “MLS is Back” tournament during the COVID-19 pandemic for using offensive language against a match official. He was initially given a red card and a standard one-game ban, but MLS Commissioner Don Garber extended that ban by an additional two games.
(Top photo: Andrew Katsambis/ISI Photos/Getty Images.)
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