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Over a Month in, Richie Williams Reflects On Taking Over for Bruce Arena
“Overall, I think it's been positive during this difficult time with difficult circumstances, obviously, for everybody."
A lot can change in the course of the month. For Richie Williams, he has gone from standing in the shadows of legendary MLS head coach Bruce Arena, to patrolling the sideline for the New England Revolution.
Arena was placed on administrative leave just over a month ago and Williams has commanded the Revs in his absence. Since taking over, Williams and New England have gone 1-3-1 in all competitions. While the record isn’t pretty, the club has had to deal with plenty of circumstances that allow you to extend grace to the coach who was thrust into a role he himself didn’t expect to be in.
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Speaking to media ahead of Saturday night’s match against Minnesota United, Williams reflected on the last month. He described it as a positive experience that is surrounded by difficult circumstances.
“Overall, I think it's been positive during this difficult time with difficult circumstances, obviously, for everybody,” the coach said. “No one really thought anything like this was going to happen, and it did. But again, you're contracted by the club and the organization asked you to do a job for them, and of course that's what I'm going to do and that's what the rest of the staff is doing, and the players have to continue to play.”
Especially during these difficult times on and off the field, it could be easy for players and coaches to get down on themselves. Williams stressed that you have to be as positive with the situation as one can be.
“So, you just have to try to be as positive with the situation, help the players in any way or the even the staff in a really positive way, and keep your head up knowing that it's not always going to be easy in these difficult circumstances and just try to keep everybody going in the right direction. And I think the players that have been have had a good attitude. They’ve been very competitive. I think we've had some positive results and at the same time, we end up getting a bunch of injuries, at the same time selling our, potentially, the best goalkeeper ever to play in MLS. You have other players then stepping in and doing a great job.
“And, you know, the thing I think you continue to preach is that we're a team and everybody has to contribute,” Williams added. “We're all in this together, don't put your head down. Whether it's in soccer or in life, not everything's perfect and there's going to be ups and downs, things are going to happen like this, and we've just got to get on with it and do our best. I think it's been pretty good so far, and we hope that we can continue as long as they say that I'm going to be in charge and we're going to continue preaching the same things and still trying to get great results.”
While things can change, the status of the investigation seems to never do so. There is no update or information regarding the investigation into Arena and members of the organization — including Williams — have said that they are out of the loop as well. The Blazing Musket has reached out to the law firm conducting the investigation — Proskauer Rose — on multiple occasions and has yet to receive a response as of publishing.
With Williams at the helm, there have been some tactical changes. Midfielder Ian Harkes touched upon them when discussing his impressions of the coach.
“Richie [Williams] obviously stepped in and it's been a good run form, I think, so far with the team,” the midfielder stated. “I think that the whole team has had to just quickly adapt and be focused for each week, which we've kind of shown. I think Richie has brought some different ideas tactically, working on a lot with us in the press and the mid-block defensively, and then also ways we can exploit other teams.”
With just seven games left in the season, New England is looking to finish out the 2023 season strong. They are second in the Eastern Conference heading into the weekend and continue to get stronger as players return from injury.
Williams has shown that he is a capable coach and should be trusted to finish the season if the results of the investigation (or lack thereof) require so. His willingness to make changes tactically has helped New England and the players seem to have embraced their new coach with open arms.
It should be stated that just like any new coach, Williams has made some mistakes. He suffered from Arena’s issue of making changes too late and Christian Makoun’s late-game mistake drew scrutiny to the coach’s substitution choices.
But considering the circumstances, Williams has done a quality job. A situation that easily could have derailed the Revs season has had minimal on-the-field impacts which is a testament to the job Williams has done so far.