KISSIMMEE, Fla. – With grit and pace the New England Revolution opened Group C of the MLS is Back Tournament by grinding out a massive 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Thursday night.
There were plenty of highs associated with the victory. Yes, it was the first Revolution match in four months following a league suspension due to COVID-19. Yes, the squad secured three points that count towards the 2020 regular season standings. Yes, Gustavo Bou put away the game winner with a powerful left-footed drive in the 56th minute. And yes, the win provided the Revs with an upper hand in Group C.
However, there was even more Revolution magic in the air at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports as all three New England Designated Players – Bou, Carles Gil and Adam Buksa – played together for the first time. In fact, it was the first time in club history that the Revs had three Designated Players on the field at the same time.
“These guys are extremely talented,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner. “Gustavo, Adam, Carles – anytime they have the chance to shoot, they will. They create good opportunities.
“It just raises the level of everybody when you have quality around each other ... We know that if we can do our job defensively, at minimum those guys up front are going to get one goal. It really holds us accountable to do our job and we know we’ll put ourselves in a position to get at least one, hopefully three points in every game.”
Buksa, the newcomer of the trio who generated a lot of excitement following a strong preseason performance and a stunning goal on his home debut, still has only three MLS games under his belt. The 6-foot-3 striker is still adjusting to the league's style, especially given the new challenges in the heat of Orlando. However, Buksa showed how fit and intelligent he can be to put himself in quality positions.
When Bou and Gil link up, they're continually instrumental in chance creation. However, at the beginning of this year’s campaign, Gil was unavailable due to a foot injury, making it the captain’s 2020 debut against Montreal.
However, as the 90 minutes unfolded it was clear that both Bou and Gil playing together was like riding a bike. It’s something they picked right back up, evidenced by Gil providing service to Bou at the edge of the 18-yard-box to secure the game winner.
“Carles was excellent," said head coach Bruce Arena. "He plays like that every game. He’s one of the better players in the league. You can see what a difference he makes in our team. We certainly missed him in the first two games of the year. It’s great to have him back and it was great to see him perform so well tonight.”
“I’m fortunate to have great chemistry with [Gil],” said Bou. “He knows my game, I know his game. Carles is truly an excellent player.
“He’s the type of player that every team wants to have. We have a lot of confidence in Carles. He’s a very good technical player. We know that at any moment Carles can set you up for a big goal or a big play. I’m very comfortable with the dynamic I’ve built with Carles.”
The high caliber of attacking prowess these Designated Players have will continue to be on display throughout the MLS is Back Tournament. As the trio has more time to adjust to the conditions of Orlando with the heat, humidity and unique challenges of the tournament, there will be more magic on the horizon.