Foxborough, Mass. — After several turns, it all ended with a lightning bolt. Gustavo Bou’s match-winner in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time Friday night served as the emphatic exclamation point to the New England Revolution’s 2–1 victory over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference play-in round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Bou hit a screamer from just under 30 yards out, the ball cruising in between Montreal defenders before cratering inside the lower right corner of the goal.
Impact goalkeeper Clement Diop sat stunned on the ground with the ball inside the net behind him. His teammates were facedown on the turf inside empty and cavernous Gillette Stadium, the only noise coming from a full Revolution team huddle celebrating the decisive goal in between the net and corner flag.
The Revolution signed Bou last summer on a deal worth upwards of $12 million. The dramatic, heat-seeking missile he fired to oust Montreal from the playoffs is a reminder that big players tend to score big goals.
“Gustavo is a goal scorer, we expect him to get goals,” Revolution head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena said after the game. “We don’t anticipate them all the time in 95th minute, but that’s what Gustavo does: He’s a goal scorer. He’s a great player, but his DNA is scoring goals.”
— X-New England Revolution (@NERevolution) November 21, 2020
Revolution set for next round of MLS Cup Playoffs
New England has advanced to the next round of the post-season and will play away at either the Philadelphia Union or Toronto FC on November 24, while Bou’s strike will likely go down as one of the Revolution’s most memorable goals of all-time.
Meanwhile, Friday’s proceedings marked Arena’s 51st playoff game as a coach, the most in MLS history. The result also extended the Revolution’s home unbeaten run in playoff games to 13 dating back to the 2002 MLS Cup.
New England started the game on the front foot, attacking with Tajon Buchanan and Teal Bunbury on the flanks.
Carles Gil opened the scoring for New England in 37th minute. The play started with Bunbury taking possession on the right wing and switching field for Buchanan, who then played Bou. After settling possession just outside the box, looked up, and crossed toward the right side of the area, where Gil arrived to one-time the feed into the far corner of the net for his first goal of 2020.
Montreal return fire in second half
After failing to halt New England’s play on the flanks in the opening stanza, Montreal rallied back in the second half and equalized off a 59th minute freekick.
Rudy Camacho sent a delivery from central midfield hurtling into the penalty area. Amar Sejdic rose above Henry Kessler and flicked the ball centrally, where Romell Quioto arrived to head past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner.
“It came my way on the initial header, and I got a piece of it, but obviously not enough,” said Kessler. “The ball went centrally. I should probably do better on the initial one. I didn’t get enough on it.”
Montreal’s equalizer made several of New England’s chances throughout the game loom larger.
“We won on the last play of the game, but it was clear we’d score a goal throughout the second half,” Gil said through a translator. “Their goalkeeper played an outstanding game.”
Minuto 94: La Pantera no se va, se esconde 😏
— Gustavo La Pantera Bou (@gustavobouok) November 21, 2020
Revolution push for decisive second goal
Montreal needed some luck as well. Revolution striker Adam Buksa headed off the woodwork twice — once in the 10th minute off a corner, and then in second half stoppage time off the left post.
Bunbury fired inches wide of the far post following a breakaway by Tajon Buchanan (27th), flicked a corner off Diop’s fingertips (36th) and shot over the bar (76th) off a feed by Gil.
Diop also halted a bid from outside the box by Buchanan (29th) and Gil at the back post (87th).
But, as Gil predicted, his team’s breakthrough eventually arrived, though with extra time beckoning.
Bou’s moment of brilliance came with Montreal sitting deep and hanging on to get through regulation. His heat-seeking arrow from outside the area cut through Montreal’s back line and dashed their title hopes.
“Both teams played extremely hard, give Montreal credit: they battled for 95 minutes,” Arena added. “We scored two outstanding goals.
“Montreal had a good game plan and defended well. They frustrated us at times. We had to battle all the way.”