FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Severe thunderstorms delayed kick-off by 15 minutes, but nothing else came close to halting the New England Revolution or its newly-acquired striker, Gustavo Bou, on Wednesday night.
Bou, nicknamed La Pantera — the panther — vaulted into the air at the top of the box to meet and crush a looping corner kick from Carles Gil into the back of the net one minute into first half stoppage time of his MLS debut. Bou’s sweetly-struck volley broke a scoreless deadlock and powered the Revolution to a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of an announced crowd of 10,575 fans at rainy Gillette Stadium, their ninth consecutive league match without a loss.
New England (7-8-6, 27 points) signed Bou on July 10 to a deal worth upwards of $17 million and inserted him into the starting lineup against Vancouver, the first chance head coach Bruce Arena had to see the new player, since Bou’s work visa didn’t arrive until Monday.
“I’m very happy,” Bou said after the game through a Spanish translator. “It was the first time I played for the club and I think it happened in a great way since we won the game and got three points. I scored a goal in my debut debut and truth is I’m very happy about it. My teammates helped a lot and have been great since I got to New England, and I have great hopes here, so it was a very sound debut.”
Bou alternated between the left wing and a more central, play-making position inside a 4-2-3-1 formation that also featured Juan Agudelo as a holding midfielder. New England bossed possession early and Vancouver didn’t fire a single shot until Theo Bair hit the post in the 50th minute.
The game’s first attempt on goal came off the post, too, as Brandon Bye advanced into the box and shot on Luis Caicedo’s through ball in the 15th minute. In the 36th minute, Bou played Gil, whose shot from outside the area forced Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau to drop low. Crepeau gave up a fat rebound to an open Juan Fernando Caicedo, but recovered in time to block a point-blank bid from inside the six-yard box.
But moments later, Crepeau caused a blunder that cost the Whitecaps the game. He gave the ball away off a goal kick, which led to the corner that produced Bou’s banner goal.
The pivotal play was an odd one from start to finish. Gil had two takes. He was interrupted on the first when Whitecaps midfielder Felipe – who was not in the game and on the sidelines warming up – threw a second ball into play just as Gil delivered the corner. Match referee Robert Sibiga ordered a re-take, then reprimanded Felipe.
On the second attempt, Gil lofted a service up and seemingly away from the net. Bou emerged as the target and beat Whitecaps midfielder Hwang In-Beom to the ball. The finish oozed with class and got Revs’ supporters in the lower and middle bowls of the stadium up and off their seats in applause.
“You don’t see that often — players able to take a ball out of the air like that and striking it as clean he did,” Arena said after the game. “So, if you want to give me full credit for that, I’d be glad to accept it, but I had nothing to do with that play if you want my honest opinion.”
Jul 17, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez (14) scores a goal on Vancouver Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver, which entered Wednesday win-less in six and with only one victory in its last 10 games, ramped up the pressure in the second half as Fredy Montero came on for Bair in the 68th minute.
But the Revolution weathered the storm and managed to keep producing chances of their own. Crepeau went left to deny Gil’s free kick from the top of the box in the 70th minute, then stoned second half substitute Cristian Penilla off a breakaway in the 77th.
Bou exited the match for Diego Fagundez two minutes later as a rain-soaked crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Fagundez iced the game moments after entering. He made it 2-0 in the 82nd minute headed in Penilla’s right-footed cross from the left flank for his first goal of the season. The goal also puts Fagundez in a tie with Lee Nguyen for second-most all-time goals in New England history (51).
Gil added a third goal for good measure — his sixth of the year — with a left-footed blast from the top of the box in the 87th minute.
The Revs weren’t done there though, as Teal Bunbury made it 4-0 in the 90th minute with his fifth goal of the season. Bunbury converted after taking possession in the six-yard box off a Penilla chip.
“[Goal differential] it’s minus 10 now? We got it down a little,” Arena said. “I don’t think we’ll win a whole lot of games four-zero. Hopefully we can get it into single digits. We’re a little behind the eight-ball in that category, so we have to win games.”