CHICAGO – Following a thrilling and dramatic 3-2 win over Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday night, the New England Revolution returned home with a hard-fought three points, a club-record 18th victory, and an official ticket to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
While it was a full team effort to get the win, creating special moments takes special players, and captain Carles Gil is most certainly a standout on that list.
With the score level at 2-2 going into stoppage time, Gil’s strategic strike with flawless execution from a narrow angle gave the Revs the edge they needed to close out the game.
“[We were] just happy,” said Teal Bunbury. “We wanted three points tonight. For it to come down to the wire like that, I was just talking to some of the guys, our flight back would’ve been a lot different had we tied that game or lost that game. Now it’ll be a little bit easier to fly back tonight, get in early in the morning.”
What was perhaps most impressive about Gil’s crafty tally is that he did it with his non-dominant foot.
“Well, he scored a goal with his right foot, that’s impressive,” said Bruce Arena. “It was good to get him and Gustavo [Bou] on the field for 45 minutes tonight. We keep moving them forward with their fitness and their sharpness, so I was real pleased with that.”
“It was just such a resilient effort from everybody,” said Bunbury. “Once that goal goes in from Carles it’s just a special moment. A lot of excitement. You can tell guys on the bench, normally that are starting games, are getting excited, too. So we really have a family here.”
Gil came in at the half after Arena made a massive season-high nine changes to start the game, giving Gil an opportunity to rest in the midst of a four-games-in-12-days stretch. As he came into the lineup, his presence provided an immediate boost.
It was also Gil’s fourth consecutive appearance after missing six games due to injury, and although he missed more than a month of the season, it’s clear that he has not missed a single beat.
Gil scored his third goal of the year and his second game winner. In only 45 minutes of action, the playmaker also recorded team-highs with four shots, three on target, and four chances created.
Over the entire season, Gil has 19 combined goals and assists, which is tied for third-most in MLS this season, and he leads the league with 93 key passes.
“He’s just quality,” said Bunbury. “He makes the other team have to scramble to figure out, ‘how are we going to stop him?’ He’s so composed on the ball. He just brings a level of experience and it’s just going to help us. His class showed.”
“He's a great player,” said Henry Kessler, who was also instrumental with the opening goal and a late clearance off the line. “I think something that gives him a great edge is his dribbling. He has a low center of gravity and it's really hard to get the ball off of him so often you see opponents fouling him. I think he was fouled maybe five times in one half today. So, that makes it really hard to defend him is his dribbling."
Gil’s quality truly shined in the final moments of the match, clinching the Revs' playoff berth in stoppage time and earning the league leaders an exhilarating victory to put them at 59 points in the midst of a historic season.
“Elation was the initial emotion [when Gil scored], kind of getting that goal after conceding what was not a great second goal," said Kessler. "So, we were really happy to get the third goal and put ourselves in a position to get three points.”
Gil and the Revolution aim to continue their triumphs in the league at home on Saturday, when they will host Orlando City SC at 7 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.