A brace from Gustavo Bou and another masterclass from Carles Gil powered the New England Revolution to a 3-1 win at Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon, booking a spot in their first Eastern Conference Final since 2014 and continuing a remarkable Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs run from the No. 8 seed.
New England, just like in their Round One win over the Philadelphia Union, opened a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal's first half that had Gil and Tajon Buchanan at the center of it. Their contributions first surfaced in the 17th minute, when Buchanan was tripped up by Oriol Rosell in the 18-yard box and Gil stepped up to beat Brian Rowe with a penalty kick right up the middle.
Then on a counter attack in the 25th minute, Gil and Buchanan combined on the right flank before the Canadian youngster crossed for Adam Buksa’s run at the near post. New England’s No. 9 hit the woodwork, only for Bou to clean up at the back stick for the 2-0 lead.
Orlando clawed one back in the 33rd minute when Junior Urso made it 2-1 for the hosts. New England failed to clear a Daryl Dike effort, and the ball bounced to the Brazilian midfielder for a right-footed shot that deflected past two defenders.
Orlando’s comeback hopes got severely complicated in the 60th minute when Mauricio Pereyra was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge into the back of Matt Polster’s leg. The Revolution midfielder advanced the ball upfield on a counter attack, and referee Alex Chilowicz went right to his back pocket after the Uruguayan’s lunging tackle.
Even with 10 men, Orlando received an ideal lifeline to level the match in the 74th minute when Nani stepped up for a penalty kick after Polster clattered into Dike. The Lions’ captain telegraphed his attempt, however, and Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner dove to his right for the save to preserved the 2-1 lead.
Bou sealed the 3-1 result in the 86th minute after Gil slipped through his fellow Designated Player. The Argentine forward made no mistake, sliding a shot under Rowe as Orlando’s goalkeeper rushed out to confront the opportunity.
- 17' – NE – Carles Gil (PK) | WATCH
- 25' – NE – Gustavo Bou | WATCH
- 33' – ORL – Junior Urso | WATCH
- 86 – NE – Gustavo Bou | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: New England sure aren't playing like a No. 8 seed, with back-to-back road victories sending the club to its first Eastern Conference Final since 2014. It's roughly 18 months since they brought head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena into the mix and his vast MLS experience is paying off with a remarkable balance of DP talent and domestic-based players. Meanwhile, it's heartbreak for an Orlando side that also lost the MLS is Back Tournament Final earlier this summer. Head coach Oscar Pareja worked wonders this season and lifted the Lions to their first playoff appearance since entering MLS in 2015, but their magic ran out.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: When Nani stepped up for his penalty kick in the 74th minute, all the momentum could’ve swung toward Orlando – even if they had 10 men after Mauricio Pereyra’s red card. But Matt Turner thought otherwise, denying the DP winger a chance to make it 2-2 and giving New England a much-needed jolt.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: This easily could’ve gone to Carles Gil or Tajon Buchanan, but we’re handing it Gustavo Bou. The DP scored New England’s second and third goals, and now has three goals in as many playoff games in 2020. The former Club Tijuana forward continues to be a highly impressive signing.
- ORL: End of season
- NE: Sunday, Dec. 6 at Columbus Crew SC (3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN4, TVA Sports in Canada) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final