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Richie Williams, Revolution Players React to Bruce Arena's Absence
Williams: “We’re all professionals. We do this for a living, players and coaches and everybody in the building. So we just want to approach it the way that we approach every day...
The New England Revolution will be without their head coach and sporting director on Thursday as Bruce Arena was placed on administrative leave due to an ongoing investigation by MLS into alleged insensitive and inappropriate remarks. Richie Williams will be stepping up on the touchline for New England as interim head coach and he hopes to make it a seamless transition.
“We’re all professionals,” Williams said. “We do this for a living, players and coaches and everybody in the building. So we just want to approach it the way that we approach every day, being good pros. We come in, we want to prepare well, we want to train hard, coach well, coach hard, and we want to be ready to play. We have a really good group of players and staff in the building and everybody’s ready to go. There’s ups and downs always in life and football and we’ll be ready to go, be positive, and be good.”
Williams likely would have wanted to focus on soccer but the majority of the questions were regarding off-the-pitch matters. The allegations against Arena were a focal point of Wednesday’s media availability. Williams was asked if the allegations against Arena caught him by surprise. He neglected to comment.
Revolution captain Carles Gil couldn’t escape the questions either. The midfielder was directly asked if he heard Arena make insensitive or inappropriate comments and he said that he had not.
While the situation around Arena has added some difficulty to the mid-week matchup against Atlas, it appears that the transition has been relatively smooth. Players haven’t noticed a great difference out on the training pitch.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye credited the environment that has been cultivated in New England as a reason why the transition has been an easy one so far.
“It doesn’t change much honestly,” he said. “Just because the environment we’re in is built for us to be successful. Whether one guy is missing on any given day, everything in the process is the exact same.”
The news of the investigation has taken the MLS world by storm but Revolution players aren’t letting it distract them from the task at hand, defeating Atlas in the Round of 32 of Leagues Cup.
“I don’t think it’s a distraction,” the recently acquired Kaye said. “I think guys are focused on what we are brought here to do which is play soccer. We leave the rest of this stuff up to the people who are supposed to deal with that.”
With the news breaking so recently, players are still relatively in the dark about the allegations. Kaye said that his initial reaction was that he didn’t know what to think about it and he still doesn’t know what to think of the allegations.
“I don’t know much,” he stated. “I don’t know any information.”
While the cloud of Arena’s absence will be hanging over Gillette Stadium on Thursday, they will have to be focused if they want to progress to the Round of 16. Williams is an experienced coach 17 years of total coaching experience and has been an assistant coach with the Revolution for the last five years.
If anyone is capable of stepping in for Arena, it is Williams. Midfielder Tommy McNamara described Williams as a coach who wants players to be as prepared as they possibly can entering a match.
“He wants to prepare the players as best as possible to make sure that we understand everything going into the game and he wants to make sure that tactically we understand, positionally where we want to be offensively, defensively,” the Revolution veteran said. “So we did a little bit more work on that today and a little bit more preparation. I really like Richie as a coach. I think him and the rest of the staff, since I’ve been here, have done a really good job. So hopefully it shows tomorrow in the game.”
New England’s captain also added that Williams is a good coach.
“Obviously it was not an easy situation for him because everything (was) very quick but he’s doing a very good job,” Gil said. “We are with him, he is with us.”
Williams and the Revolution will be put to the test on Thursday. Without their starting goalkeeper as well as their leader on the touchline, a challenging match against Atlas only got tougher.
And while winning can be a cure-all, it is hard to believe that the discussion around the investigation will stop if New England puts in a good performance. Arena appears to be out for the foreseeable future and the absence of the greatest head coach in U.S. Soccer history is hard not to notice.