Revolution players refused to practice after Bruce Arena resigned

The New England Revolution players refused to practice Tuesday after the failure to fire athletic director and coach Bruce Arena.

Arena resigned on Saturday after the Revolution’s 1-1 draw with Minnesota United and was placed on administrative leave on August 1 while under a MLS– Commissioned investigation into allegations of “inappropriate and insensitive” remarks. MLS said in a statement Saturday that the investigation had “confirmed” some allegations, but did not go into details.

On Monday afternoon, Revolution players and staff were told in an email written by team president Brian Bilello that there would be a mandatory meeting early Tuesday morning before the team was scheduled to practice. “I will address what happened at the club,” Bilello wrote, and “give this group a chance to ask questions.”

The meeting convened at 08:40, with Bilello speaking to the players for about an hour. The players demanded more information on the investigation that led to Arena’s resignation. Unsatisfied with their time with Bilello, the players asked for and were granted time with the entire coaching staff, according to multiple team sources who, like others in this article, requested anonymity to protect their positions.

That meeting lasted longer – about two hours. At that meeting, former Arena assistant and then-interim coach Richie Williams was asked about reported involvement in the investigation of his former boss. Williams told the players he was unable to comment.

Interim Revolution sporting director Curt Onalfo then met with a number of senior Revolution players to further discuss concerns about Williams’ continued leadership at the club. Onalfo, said multiple sources briefed on that meeting, defended Williams but also told the players that their input would be key in determining Williams’ future.

“Not many guys believe Richie is leading the team now,” said one Revolution player Athletics.

Sources within the club said assistant coaches Shalrie Joseph and Dave van den Bergh have not attended training on several occasions since Williams took over as interim coach. The New England Revolution declined to comment.

Later Tuesday, the Revolution named Clint Peay as interim head coach. Peay had been the head coach of the New England Revolution II, the Revs’ reserve team that plays in MLS Next Pro. The team also announced that Joseph and Van den Bergh had been fired from the organization. Williams’ status with the organization was not known as of Tuesday evening.

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In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Williams called his team’s absence from practice a collective decision.

“We didn’t have training today as we had a number of meetings between players, coaches and management,” Williams said. “The length of the meetings and what was discussed we decided as a group, collectively, that we would not have training today and we would go out tomorrow.”

Williams said Tuesday at a press conference that he was not aware Arena had resigned until the night it was announced. Club captain Carlos Gil was scheduled to speak to the media on Tuesday but did not, with the club saying he was not available because meetings ran long. Gil is still expected to address the media this week.

The locker room is broken into for the Arena investigation. Several members of the coaching staff, including assistants Joseph and Van den Bergh, had publicly expressed their support for Arena. Neither was under contract for the 2024 season and, according to sources within the club, neither was expected to return after this season. Williams and Joseph, sources said, have clashed repeatedly, with the two physically separated on one occasion last season.

“Yeah, just in terms of the staff,” Williams said Tuesday when asked about his relationship with Joseph and Van den Bergh, “with me personally as the interim coach, they’ve asked me to take over, to coach .by the end of the season, hopefully in the playoffs and a championship and that’s definitely what I’m going to do going forward. And again, it’s been a really good response over the last six weeks from the players and with the results and maintaining our second place in the league.”

(Photo: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports)


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