His Galaxy teams won three MLS Cups in large part because of star Designated Players David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, just as the likes of Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno and Eddie Pope stepped up in big moments for the D.C. United sides he led to MLS’s first two championships.
On Friday night his New England Revolution got a very timely boost from their version of “the magic triangle” – DPs Gustavo Bou, Carles Gil and Adam Buksa – to carry them past a limited but game Montreal Impact side in their Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Play-In Match.
“I feel like sometimes during the year our offensive capabilities have been criticized,” said rookie defender Henry Kessler in the Revs’ postgame press conference. “Throughout the year they've been good, and unfairly criticized at times, but today they really, really stepped up. So Carles, great finish and Gustavo as well, and I thought Adam played a really good game too, obviously had that great header that [Montreal goalkeeper Clement] Diop made a great save on and that could have been the game-winner as well.”
Highlights: New England Revolution 2, Montreal Impact 1
Gil opened the scoring with a clinically-dispatched volley of an inviting delivery from Bou and pulled the strings throughout, much as he has throughout his Revs career. Buksa played a key pass and directed three shots on target, denied by Diop’s quick reactions. And Bou popped up with a jaw-dropping injury-time winner from range, heading off the nervy prospect of extra time and booking New England’s spot in the next round and a meeting with Philadelphia Union on Tuesday (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info)
“Two outstanding goals. And it's nice to get both Carlos and Gustavo back on the field together,” Arena said postgame.
“Carles’ performance – yeah, he was very, very good. What more can you say? He had a goal, he obviously can help control the tempo of the game. His passing at times is outstanding. Really good game and obviously the more he continues to play, he’s only going to get better because he's basically been out most of the year. So we could see every game there's been a progression.”
Arena’s predecessor Brad Friedel is not remembered particularly fondly by Revolution supporters but he’s left a significant legacy in the form of Gil, whom he brought in after an unsuccessful pursuit of Alejandro Pozuelo.
Gil has become both engine and barometer for the Revolution, the Spaniard’s vision and incision proving impossible to replicate when he’s sidelined, which has been the case for too much of the 2020 campaign. An Achilles injury hampered him when MLS play resumed in midsummer, and eventually required surgery which was initially projected to rule him out for the rest of the season.
But he worked hard to return ahead of schedule, returning to match action in late October and gradually climbing back to his best form amid the hectic stretch-run calendar.
“I needed training,” Gil said via translator postgame. “This season, because of COVID, it's been the way it has been, it’s been a lot of games at times. I wasn't able to train, I had to play games right away, so I had to gain some rhythm. I felt much better in Philadelphia [on Decision Day] and today too. In fact I feel like I'm at 100% again.”
That could prove quite troublesome for the Supporters' Shield-winning Philadelphia when they cross paths with New England on Tuesday.