FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It was always going to take something special to separate the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Gustavo Bou provided it.
It looked for all the world like the Revs and Fire were headed for a 1-1 draw in a match with massive playoff implications, as both sides found it difficult to generate quality looks at goal throughout the second half. Minutes 45 through 85 were played largely in midfield.
But in the 86th minute, with a singular moment of magic, Bou gave New England exactly what they needed to claim all three points. Intercepting a pass from Fire defender Francisco Calvo, Bou took a touch to settle himself before unleashing a left-footed rocket into the upper corner from 20 yards.
Goodbye, frustrating 1-1 draw. Hello, massive 2-1 win.
“We knew from the beginning that it was going to be a game with a lot of friction,” Bou said through an interpreter. “(Chicago) defends very well. They stayed back very tight. It was hard for us to penetrate through the middle of the field. Their defense was sitting way back.
“We knew it was going to take a special moment to break them down.”
Bou said he “didn’t think twice” about having a go when the space opened up for him, but teammate Andrew Farrell thought Bou was actually shaping up to slide the ball to Cristian Penilla on his left.
In the end, Farrell was glad he didn’t.
“I was like ‘Oh, okay, maybe he’s going to slide it to Penilla,’” Farrell said. “He took it and it looked like it was going straight to the ‘keeper, and then it knuckled a little bit off to the left.”
It was Bou’s fifth goal in his seventh appearance with the Revolution, but the first he’s scored with his weaker left foot. Of course, there was nothing “weak” about this goal.
“That’s his bad foot,” joked sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. “You should see his good one.”
“I don’t score very often (with my left foot),” Bou said. “I’ve been told to shoot a lot with my left. I have a great left foot, but I don’t do it often. Lucky for me today it worked out and I was able to score.”
There was nothing lucky about Bou’s golazo, and there’s been nothing lucky about the Revolution’s current 8-1-6 run that’s lifted them to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, now four points above the playoff line with seven games to play, and with games in hand on all the contenders below the line.
Should the Revs continue steamrolling towards a playoff berth through the season’s final month, Bou will be a significant part of the equation.
“That’s why he’s here,” Farrell said of Bou. “(He’s) a guy who’s a difference maker, and (it was) a great job acquiring a guy of that talent. He’s been doing a lot of scoring goals, assisting for us, and another big play (tonight) in a game where maybe we didn’t have a lot going at times.
“It’s important to win these games at home that we have, and that was a big win for us.”