Columbus Crew vs. Revolution adds another chapter in the Caleb Porter, Bruce Arena rivalry

Saturday’s Columbus Crew game against the New England Revolution is a game of intrigue. It features some of the league’s most talented playmakers in Black & Gold Midfielder and MLS Cup Most Valuable Player 2020 Lucas Zelarayán and Revolution Midfielder and MLS Most Valuable Player 2021 Carles Gil healthy and electric to watch. Each team also has new forwards in Columbus’ Cucho Hernández and the potential debut of new New England forward Giacomo Vrioni.

However, there is one matchup that doesn’t get much attention in build-up and doesn’t fall within the lines of the field. It’s the coaching battle between Crew Head Coach Caleb Porter and his Revs counterpart Bruce Arena.

Look back in the history books of Major League Soccer and the names of Porter and Arena are scattered all over the place. After all, Arena has been in and out of the league since its inception. In 1996, with players running around in oversized football shirts, Arena DC coached United to the MLS Cup title for the league’s first two seasons.

When Arena transitioned from domestic to international football in 1998 and began an eight-year stint as head coach of the United States men’s national team, Porter laced up his boots to begin a three-year MLS career.

Fast forward to 2022 and both coaches have left their respective marks on the sport in America. Between the two are seven MLS Cup titles, five MLS Coach of the Year awards and each has even won a college cup. As far as MLS is concerned, there has only been one season when either side has not been part of the league and has left an enduring footprint in the United States’ top flight.

On Saturday, the pair add another head-to-head match to their history, their 20thth Score across all competitions to be precise. After four Western Conference seasons between Porter’s Portland Timbers and Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy and three seasons in his current Team Against Revolution form, Porter has a slight advantage across the board.

Looking at wins and losses alone, Porter’s Timbers and Crew teams have won six of the 19, Arena five. Since Porter joined the league as head coach in 2013, Porter has also had the hardware advantage, winning two MLS Cups over Arena with the 2014 LA Galaxy during that time.

That doesn’t mean that this match is necessarily more important.

“I respect Bruce a lot. We had some great matchups here with them, New England crew and when he was in LA and (I was in) Portland,” Porter said Friday. “I think he knows what he’s getting with our teams and I mostly know what I’m going to get with his team.”

Over the years, this knowledge of each other’s tactics and playstyles has led to competitive encounters. In the 19 head-to-head coaching matches, 16 games ended either in a tie or within a goal of each other, outside of 2015 when the Galaxy brought five to the Timbers in a 5-0 loss and Porter’s side responded with five of theirs own 5-2 win late in the season.

If you focus on the two coaches since 2019, it looks more favorable for Black & Gold. Columbus won the team’s first three games against the Arena-led Revolution, including the 2020 MLS Eastern Conference Finals. and Her fights.

As the Crew opened Lower.com Field against New England on July 3, 2021, Black & Gold lost two goals before fighting back to a 2-2 draw. On September 18, 2021, Columbus scored, gave up the lead and goaltender Eloy Room made several saves with an injured leg in the closing minutes of the game to secure a point.

Two assists from winger Derrick Etienne Jr. so far in 2022, including on an 89th minute goal from striker Erik Hurtado, both sides looked back from deficits.

Saturday has all the makings of another close battle in the Porter vs. Arena series.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Porter said. “They have talent and are extremely aggressive in putting numbers in the box, sometimes both full-backs, the No9, the No10 and even midfielders. They want to push you back, they want to put you under pressure and we have to make it a game where they defend and a game where we find the right moments to make the substitutions.”

On Saturday, both sides will start with additional motivation. The crew begins building Lower.com Field into a fortress with an extensive home program in the second half of the year. Black & Gold are also on the right track, unbeaten in their last eight games.

On the other hand, Arena’s men lost goalkeeper Matt Turner and forward Adam Buksa to European teams halfway through the season. A byproduct of their elimination is that New England go into the game with two draws and two losses.

There’s no noticeable rivalry between the two coaches, as MLS shared back in 2020, but if Arenas New England can win away to a Columbus team four points ahead in the table, it will be a boost for the 2021 Supporters ‘ Shield-winning Revolution and a much-needed boost to get back in contention for the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs.

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