The New England Revolution defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 on Wednesday night. The match featured a banner debut for Gustavo Bou and extended New England’s unbeaten run in league matches to nine.
Here are three takeaways from New England’s perspective:
Gustavo Bou, welcome addition
Gustavo Bou said after Wednesday night’s game that his debut went as well as expected.
Good luck finding anyone who disagrees with that claim. By all accounts, Bou looked the part of a big-money designated player that can add an elite dimension to the Revolution’s attack and make them a legitimate playoff contender.
First off, the goal.
On the TV broadcast, NBC Sports Boston announcer Brad Feldman almost seemed lost for words when Bou rose to smash Carles Gil’s 45th minute corner kick with a wicked volley that flew into the back of the net. Feldman postulated that it’s a goal “that will be remembered in these parts for some time.”
For now, it’s an easy contender for Goal of the Week and the warning shot heard ‘round MLS that New England’s playoff rally just went up another level.
Even without the goal, Bou looked comfortable with his new teammates and performed well. He connected 83 percent of his passes, had six shots, and six key passes (defined as a pass that leads to a scoring opportunity) in just under 80 minutes of play.
Gil is routinely an impact player for the Revs, but Bou made him look even better on Wednesday night. Gil led the game in shots, connected 93 percent of his passes, scored a goal and notched the assist on Bou’s first half golazo.
Substitutions ice the game for Revolution
New England dominated the scoreboard and most of the play on Wednesday night, but there was 20-minute spell in the second half when it looked like Vancouver was playing its way back into contention.
The Whitecaps hit the post six minutes into the second half after not registering any shots in the first half, while Fredy Montero entered the game in the 68th minute to add a new attacking threat.
New England held a one-goal lead as it weathered a more invigorated Whitecaps effort in the second half, though head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena helped his side regain total control with some timely substitutions.
First, he brought on Cristian Penilla for Juan Fernando Caicedo, then swapped Diego Fagundez for Bou, who is not yet fit enough to play 90 minutes and needed to be saved for Sunday’s match at FC Cincinnati.
Fagundez allowed the Revolution to keep another scoring threat on the field, while Penilla’s speed helped stretch Vancouver and prevented them from applying maximum pressure in the attack.
Three minutes after entering, Fagundez scored off a Penilla cross. Penilla then helped finish off the Whitecaps by assisting on Teal Bunbury’s fifth goal of the season in the 90th minute.
In the past, Fagundez and Penilla have been every day starters. As of now, they’re role players off the bench.
“Cristian Penilla’s a very talented player and we’ve got to get him a little bit more focused on understanding the role every player on the field plays,” Arena said. “Tonight, he certainly took care of business, it was great.
“Diego’s [Fagundez] been real good for us over the last couple of weeks. Listen, both players would like to be playing 90 minutes every game, but to have that kind of mentality to come off the bench and contribute and get goals, it was great. I think they did an outstanding job.”
Can the goal differential be salvaged?
Arena didn’t know the exact number of the Revolution’s goal differential after Wednesday’s game and seemed shocked to learn it had been reduced to -10.
New England had a -19 goal differential under former head coach Brad Friedel.
Since his firing, it’s at +9.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s 4-0 victory marked the first time this season – and the first time since April 6, 2018 – that the Revolution won a game by a margin of three or more goals.
“[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.”
The Revolution might not be as behind the eight-ball as Arena thinks, though. The Montreal Impact, which sits just three points ahead of New England in fifth place, also has a -10 goal differential player and has played one more game.
As of now, the eighth-place Revolution are within two points of the Eastern Conference’s seventh and final playoff spot and five points out of third place. Nine of their last 13 games are against Eastern teams.