New England Revolution head coach and technical director Bruce Arena has a long history of being anything but boring in press interviews so it should come as no surprise that his comments about the Philadelphia Union on Thursday carried some bite.
When initially asked about Union head coach Jim Curtin and the upward trajectory of the Revs’ Round of 16 opponent, Arena didn’t have much to offer.
“I really haven’t followed what the Union does to be honest with you,” he said. “I was out of the West Coast for a number of years and haven’t spent a whole lot of time back on the East Coast for the last 10 years so I’m not that familiar. I know they’ve done a good job; I’ve watched them play over the past year, they have a good team. How do you beat them? You score more goals than they do is the best answer I can give you.”
When asked about the Union’s style of play, which emphasizes pressure and ball hunting in the final third to create goal-scoring opportunities off transition play, he was somewhat dismissive.
“Their style of play is not unique in our league,” he said. “If they can press you up the field they do, if not they get in good defensive shape. But I don’t think there is anything they do in particular when we’re in possession of the ball that is much different than any team in the league for the most part.”
Like the Union, the Revolution went unbeaten in group play but scored just twice, picking up a 1-0 win, a 1-1 draw and a scoreless draw. The Union beat the Revs 6-1 at home last season but drew on the road after Arena had taken over the team.
“Look, I think all the past games are kind of out the window,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said in a presser prior to Arena’s on Thursday. “Obviously we’ve had, you know about a three and a half to four month layoff New England has really had a good squad last year and Bruce (Arena) has really improved it.”
Arena said star midfielder Carles Gil is unlikely to play. The Union will have their full compliment of players, including Andrew Wooten, who Curtin said will be available to play 20-25 minutes.
“We really look forward to the challenge New England brings,” Curtin said. “Bruce is an incredible coach in our league and with the national team and obviously has built a really strong New England team in a very short amount of time.”
Saturday night’s game kicks off at 10:30 p.m. The winner will get the winner of the Sporting Kansas City game against Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarterfinals. The loser will go home, not knowing when the regular season will resume.