When you walk into a practice for the New England Revolution in Gillette Stadium, the first thing you notice is how quiet — and empty — the place seems.

Underneath the gentle pops of soccer balls being kicked, you can hear the faint drone of the Patriots running drills at their practice facility just behind the main stadium.

While dozens of journalists have set up there to report on a team that won't play a real game for another month, there's almost no one at the Revs practice two days before a pivotal match against the Los Angeles Football Club on Saturday in the final stretch of the home team's season.

Right beneath everyone's noses, the Revolution are in the middle of maybe the single biggest turnaround in club history.

The kickoff to this year's campaign seems like a far cry from where the squad is now. In March, the team sat at the bottom of Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference, with a 2-8-2 record, and they were poised to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

"For us, I think it was hard to find happiness, the enjoyment of being out here in training and enjoying playing soccer," said Diego Fagundez, a Revolution midfielder.

Other players agreed the feeling in the locker room wasn't great.

"I'd be lying to you if I said there wasn't any tension or guys weren't frustrated," said forward Teal Bunbury. "I mean, this is our livelihood."

Things came to a head after an embarrassing 5-0 loss on the road at the beginning of May to the Chicago Fire. The next day, the Revolution fired their head coach, Brad Friedel, leaving the team without a coach in the middle of a season. Not long after, the club also fired General Manager Mike Burns.

"I think it's easy when you're the middle of a season to kind of say, 'Well, we're not good or we're not this,' but I think we're not that type of organization," said Revs President Brian Bilello. "We wanted to move quickly and we wanted to see what we could do to turn the season around."

What Bilello and the organization did was bring in arguably the best men's coach in U.S. history: Bruce Arena, who has won five MLS championships as a coach and is the winningest coach in the history of the U.S. men's national team.

Arena came because he was excited about the possibility of building a good team.

And, he joked, "My thinking was: we could only go up. We couldn't go down."

And under Arena, that's where the New England Revolution went.

His hiring sparked something in the team, and they went on a streak of 11 straight regular season matches without a loss, which tied a club record. Suddenly, what may have been the worst team in MLS was in the hunt for a playoff spot.

And it sounds simple, but talk to the players and they'll say the biggest change Arena brought may have been giving them an environment where they felt free to play.

"He said, 'You know what? You guys are going to make mistakes. I'm going to make mistakes. But we're all going to be in this together,'" Bunbury, the forward, said. "And that's something that I think players love to hear."


Nearly 26,000 fans showed up for the team’s Saturday match against LAFC, currently the best team in the league, in hopes of watching the home team extend its undefeated streak. The incredible turnout — some 10,000 more people than the season average — is a testament to how far the team has come since Arena signed on.

But even the best turnaround doesn't happen without bumps in the road, and the Revolution ended up losing the match 2-0.

Still, the club is looking to the future. The Revolution hired Arena to be more than a coach. As sporting director, he'll also be in charge of all soccer operations, which includes everything from player acquisition to the club's youth academy and player development.

Last month, under Arena, the team signed Gustavo Bou, an Argentinian star, in a move that was widely praised.

And to top it all off, a new $35 million training facility is set to open in just a couple of months that Bilello says will be among the top in MLS.

It's all part of a long view for the team that is coming together quicker than expected.

"I think going into it, if you asked me where I'd be the most confident, we were gonna find success with Bruce, his staff, the training center, it would probably be more in the medium to long term," Team President Brian Bilello said. "And I think what we're getting out of this short term success is just bonus for us."

And if the Revs can keep this success up, the real question is when the worst-kept sports secret in Boston will catch the full attention of a championship-obsessed town.