The Revolution are just two wins from delivering the franchise’s first MLS Cup, and one win from their first appearance in the championship game since 2014.
After winning their first three playoff games, including the last two on the road, they will travel again to face the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference final Sunday (3 p.m., ABC).
Here’s why you should be watching the Revolution:
Gustavo Bou is a clutch scorer
The forward has totaled 17 goals in 36 games in two seasons with the Revolution, including seven from the 86th minute on.
He delivered the Revolution’s first postseason win in five years with his goal against the Montreal Impact in the play-in game. The teams appeared to be headed to overtime, but DeJuan Jones was able to find Bou across the middle in the 95th minute. Bou settled the ball and fired a shot from about 27 yards to beat the goalkeeper low and to the left to give the Revolution a 2-1 win.
Bou added two more goals in the Revolution’s 3-1 win over Orlando City in this past Sunday’s conference semifinal. After his first tally gave the Revolution a 2-1 lead, the native of Argentina paid tribute to Diego Maradona, who died last week at 60, when he placed an Argentine flag on the ground and pointed to the heavens before leaning down to kiss the flag.
They may have the best player in the league
Like Bou, Gil came to the Revolution in 2019, and he became the first player in club history to win MLS Newcomer of the Year honors. Injuries have limited his availability this season, and it was feared that he could have been done for the year when he had surgery to debride his left Achilles’ tendon Aug. 6.
The anticipated recovery period was 3-5 months, but Gil returned in October and was back in the lineup for the final two regular-season games.
He scored the Revolution’s first goal against Orlando City, then assisted on each of Bou’s tallies. He won’t be winning any awards this season after missing time with injuries, but New England goalie Matt Turner said Gil was the best player in the league after Sunday’s win.
“He gets Gustavo Bou off the ball a lot more in the middle third of the field, which is not [Bou’s] strength,” said Revolution coach Bruce Arena. “It gets him a little bit closer to goal and, like I’ve said before, Gustavo is a goal scorer and not much more than that if you can understand.
“I’m not complaining, but he’s a goal scorer. We need to get him close to goal, and when Carles is on the field, he can certainly concentrate on getting in good goal-scoring position and he has since Carles returned to play.”
Matt Turner has been solid in goal
Turner was a latecomer to the sport, having played sparingly in his youth. It wasn’t until he was in high school that he began to focus on soccer. He signed with the Revolution in 2016 after going undrafted upon graduating from Fairfield University.
After he was loaned out to the Richmond Kickers in USL League One for two seasons to gain more experience, Turner started to get playing time in 2018. He struggled in the second half of the season, as did the rest of the team. He was not the starter when the 2019 season began but would be named starter that May by interim head coach Mike Lapper. He’s been a steady presence since.
In Sunday’s win, he came up with a huge save after Orlando City was awarded a penalty kick in the 74th minute with the Revolution clinging to a 2-1 lead. Nani took the kick and attempted to bury it in the left corner, but Turner lunged and came up with the block.
“It was just me vs. him,” said Turner. “I didn’t hear anything else. It was just focus on the ball, focus on the moment. Trust the homework that you did, trust the technique to dive, and if you did all that correctly, you should be in a position to make the save.”
They have a legendary coach
When the Revolution hired Arena in the middle of the 2019 season to be sporting director/head coach, the move instantly restored credibility to a franchise that had not reached the postseason in four years. The announcement drew comparisons to the Patriots hiring Bill Parcells in 1993, and the Revolution responded by ending their playoff drought that October.
Arena is considered the most successful coach in the history of MLS, having won five MLS Cups and three Coach of the Year awards. He also has served as coach of the US national team, guiding the squad to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.
‘“I think a one-off can favor the underdog. We’re in a low-scoring sport. It’s not like some other sports where you can make up a deficit in a game a lot easier. Obviously we have to get past Columbus before you can even think about winning a championship, but I think our team can do that.”’
Revs coach Bruce Arena
As the 2020 regular season came to a close, Arena prioritized getting the team healthy rather than securing home-field advantage and a bye in the playoffs. The move paid off, as the Revolution followed up a win at home in the play-in round with two wins on the road to advance to the conference final.
They have an exciting attacking style
Some knock soccer because scoring can be low, but fans know part of the excitement is the buildup to a goal, and the Revolution know how to keep applying pressure.
Arena’s aggressive style allows for full-on pressure in the attacking zone, and it’s not uncommon to see top defenders Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler move beyond midfield to support the effort.
Bou is third in MLS in shots with 64, and fellow forward Adam Buksa is right behind him with 59 shots. Teal Bunbury is also a bona fide finisher and was the team’s scoring leader with eight regular-season goals.
The Revolution were third in MLS with 341 shots in the regular season and they are tied with Nashville for the league lead in shots during the playoffs with 45.
The defense is solid
In addition to Farrell and Kessler, the Revolution have received a boost from Tajon Buchanan, who was moved from forward to right back heading into the postseason after injuries to Brandon Bye and Alexander Buttner.
The franchise’s first-round pick in 2019 has been solid in front of Turner, and has factored in goals in each of the three playoff games. Against Orlando City, he drew a penalty kick when he got past Junior Urso with a series of stepovers and was taken down by Uri Rosell, setting up Gil’s goal.
They believe they can win it all
Arena likes the way his team is playing heading into the conference final, and believes the single-elimination playoff format is to the Revolution’s advantage.
“I think a one-off can favor the underdog,” said Arena. “We’re in a low-scoring sport. It’s not like some other sports where you can make up a deficit in a game a lot easier. Obviously we have to get past Columbus before you can even think about winning a championship, but I think our team can do that.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.