Veteran coaches Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley face off Saturday as Revs visit Toronto
TORONTO — Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena face off as coaching rivals for the seventh time Saturday, the latest chapter in a relationship that stretches back some 40 years.
Both are focused on the present rather than the past, however.
Bradley's Toronto FC (2-2-6) looks to build on just its second win of the season, a 1-0 decision last Saturday over New York City FC, when Arena's New England Revolution (6-1-3) visits BMO Field. The league-leading Revs, on a eight-game unbeaten run (5-0-3) in all competitions, will be a tough out especially with Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio, two thirds of the Toronto midfield, sidelined by injury.
Both Arena and Bradley are familiar names in the MLS record book.
Arena, with 256 regular-season coaching wins, and Bradley, with 193, stand No. 1 and 3 in MLS ranks. The late Sigi Schmid, after whom the MLS coaching award is now named, is No. 2 at 240.
The 65-year-old Bradley and 71-year-old Arena have a combined 499 career MLS wins when you add in playoff victories, the most by a pair of coaches facing off in a match.·Their previous six meetings, including the post-season, are deadlocked at 2-2-2.
Arena has been named MLS coach of the year four times (1997 with D.C. United, 2009 and 2011 with the Los Angeles Galaxy and 2021 with New England), compared to three for Bradley (1998 with Chicago, 2006 with Chivas USA and 2019 with LAFC).
The two also have a combined 124 victories as U.S. national team coach, with 81 for Arena and 43 for Bradley.
Saturday will be all business, however.
"Coaching against him, in all honesty, is not any different than anybody else," Arena said in the buildup to the game. "Obviously there's a long relationship there and I have the greatest respect for him and love his family. So all of that. But we're professionals. When the ball's dropped we're ready to go."
"We'll speak a little bit before the game. After the game he'll be thinking about his team, I'll be thinking about our team," he said.
But the bonds between the two remain strong, he added.
"The Arenas are very close and very good friends with the Bradleys. That will always be the case."
Bradley worked for Arena at the University of Virginia as an assistant and scout before becoming coach at Princeton, his alma mater, in 1984. Bradley recalled getting a call from a friend who was attending grad school at Virginia and was helping Arena, who then doubled as head soccer coach and assistant lacrosse coach.
"From the second that I got to Charlottesville, Bruce and I hit it off in a really good way," Bradley recalled.
The school proved to be fertile ground for young coaches.
Geno Auriemma was assistant women's basketball coach while Jim Larranaga, Dave Odom and Seth Greenberg were all on the coaching staff of the Virginia men's team, Bradley recalled.
Bradley and Arena reunited in 1996 in Major League Soccer's debut season with Arena coaching D.C. United and Bradley his assistant.
Bradley succeeded Arena as U.S. national team coach in May 2007 after Arena's contract was not renewed following the 2006 World Cup where the Americans went 0-2-1 and failed to advance out of the first round.
Arena says Bradley's teams are always well-organized.
"He knows who his key players are and he builds his team around them," he added.
Bradley was equally complimentary about New England.
"It's a team that's very characteristic of the way Bruce works," he said. "It's well put together. They're solid with everything they do … They do basic things really well."
New England leads the Eastern Conference and tops the Supporters' Shield standings on goal difference over FC Cincinnati, with the two teams playing to a 1-1 draw last weekend. The Revs' lone loss of the season was March 12, a 4-0 defeat at Los Angeles FC.
Toronto has lost just once in its last nine games (2-1-6). TFC is 2-0-3 at home this season and 2-2-5 against Eastern Conference opposition (home and away).
But TFC continues to be dogged by injuries.
Michael Bradley, who has not played since a 0-0 tie at Nashville on April 8, looks set to miss his fourth straight outing. Osorio is also sidelined, straining his medial collateral ligament in training last week.
Veteran midfielder Victor Vazquez will be out for "a few months" after undergoing a procedure on his foot in Spain, Bradley said. Forward Jordan Perruzza is also listed as out with a lingering lower leg issue.
Fullbacks Raoul Petretta (lower body) and Cristian Gutierrez (non-COVID illness) are questionable.
New England has its own injury concerns, losing Colombian star winger Dylan Borrero for the rest of the season after going down with a left knee injury in the 22nd minute of last weekend's 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati.
Striker Giacomo Vrioni, who leads the Revs with three goals, is listed as questionable after missing the Cincinnati game with a left leg issue.
Both Toronto and New England face challenging schedules ahead.
Saturday marks the first of seven games in 25 days for Toronto, which faces Montreal twice next week — in Canadian Championship and league play. Five of the Revs' next seven league outings are on the road.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press