Bruce Arena transformed the Revolution after taking over as sporting director/head coach just more than a year ago. But the Revolution faded at the end, then got off to a slow start before this season was suspended in March.
Now, the Revolution appear to have regained momentum, as they resumed play with a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact in the MLS Is Back Tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday night.
Gustavo Bou’s left-foot drive from the penalty arc in the 56th minute made the difference. The Revolution (1-1-1, 4 points) took the lead in Group C and will continue play against D.C. United next Thursday.
The Revolution dominated possession against the Impact in a rematch of the season opener, a 2-1 Montreal win Feb. 29. The Revolution played their first two games without captain Carles Gil, who returned with an effective performance against the Impact. The Impact also seemed to have improved since the opener, adding midfielder Victor Wanyama.
But the Revolution, despite playing without several regulars, produced a fluent attack and pressured on the Montreal back line for nearly the entire contest. Bou missed two clear shots late in the opening half, but regained his composure to convert after taking a Gil pass, faking Rod Fanni, and finishing past Clement Diop.
Montreal coach Thierry Henry added several attacking players in the late going, and the moves nearly paid off as Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla’s left-footer was parried by Matt Turner in the sixth minute of added time.
“We’ve had good preparation in the month of June. We have players that are very experienced and technically good, so there’s no reason to believe we can’t be a good team in possession. I thought at times tonight, we moved the ball well,” Arena said.
Takeaways from Thursday night’s victory:
▪ Bou’s timing appeared off in the first half. Though Bou is considered among the team’s best-conditioned players, he appeared to tire in the final minutes, just when he started getting chances. Bou had an opportunity with Diop out of goal, but failed to power his attempt and it was headed out by Luis Binks; then he sent a shot wide left; and in the first minute of first half added time, Bou ran on to a Scott Caldwell through ball and, with Diop again out of goal, lobbed a half volley wide.
“The first half, I had two clear chances, and I was really sad the goals didn’t come,‘‘ Bou said. “But I’m a player who keeps playing and my teammates supported me.”
Bou is listed with 83 career goals, only six left-footed, while playing for six teams since the 2008-09 season. Bou also converted a deciding left-footer in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in his seventh game with the Revolution last August.
“Carles saw me open and I received the ball, got myself free, went to my left foot,” Bou said. “It was important for the victory.”
▪ Gil played all 34 games last year, but paid a price as a foot strain failed to heal in time for the first two games of this season. The four-month break appears to have aided Gil’s recovery, as he went 90 minutes and the Revolution won for the first time since Sept. 29.
▪ The Revolution were not at full strength. But that did not affect their tactics, as Arena had them in an all-out attacking mode. The Revolution play with freedom and confidence. They keep the ball on the ground, and when they face a good passing team, such as the Impact, there is a flow to the game. If the Revolution could play home games on a grass surface, you could expect to see some interesting, wide-open games.
“In these conditions in Orlando, you need to keep possession of the ball,” Arena said. “In segments of the game we did a good job of that. Not that I care about the statistics but I think it would show we were a team that passed the ball and had a little more possession.”
▪ Alexander Buttner could become the team’s most influential left back ever. Buttner’s defending is solid and his command of the position brings another dimension to the Revolution attack.
“He was rock solid, he showed his quality on the ball and knowledge of the game, and he was getting up and down and looked fit,” Turner said. “Alex showed a lot of guys he has something left in the tank. Not only tonight, also in training, he holds guys to high standards played at a high level, so guys listen to him.”
▪ Cristian Penilla struggled with personal problems, as his family’s arrival from Ecuador was delayed last season. But Penilla appears motivated this season.
“He was outstanding, he played both sides of the ball,” Arena said. “He now understands our coaching staff and the team, and he feels comfortable in New England.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.