Things simply could not have looked any bleaker for one of Major League’s Soccer’s original franchises just over two months into the 2019 season. The New England Revolution had managed a paltry two wins in their opening 12 matches and found themselves looking up at the rest of the Eastern Conference. With no solutions in sight under Brad Friedel, they joined the Colorado Rapids and FC Cincinnati in dismissing their head coach before the middle point of May.
Some may have thought Bruce Arena — the most successful coach in league history — would not make a return to the MLS ranks following his World Cup Qualifying failure with the U.S. men’s national team, but that’s exactly who the club went out and secured to serve as sporting director and head coach. Now, the Revs find themselves in eighth place, level on points with Toronto and only on the outside of the playoff picture due to goal differential.
For a club yet to build a soccer-specific stadium and notorious for spending as little as possible on personnel from year to year, the Arena appointment was a step in a new direction and the signs of ambition continued this week with a blockbuster signing to join the attack.
The club announced on Wednesday they had acquired Argentine forward Gustavo Bou from Club Tijuana, which makes him the second Designated Player on the team alongside Spanish playmaker Carles Gil. The deal is reportedly worth at least $12 million total in transfer fees and salary, which makes him the most expensive signing in team history.
At 29 years of age, Bou is a proven goal scorer across multiple leagues and brings valuable versatility to the front line, as he is able to slide in seamlessly at either wing in addition to his preferred central role. The veteran manager was thrilled to complete his first major signing at the helm and expects him to contribute in a big way immediately.
“Gustavo is a versatile, creative forward with a proven history of success who will bring a high level of experience and leadership to the roster,” Arena said. “We have followed him for a number of years and have confidence he will be an integral part of our success this year and moving forward. We look forward to welcoming him to New England.”
Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep perhaps said it best when describing just how surprising it was to see the club to go out and get a player with plenty of gas left in the tank for such a hefty fee.
I'm told the #NERevs have completed the transfer of Argentine striker Gustavo Bou from Club Tijuana for a fee between $6-7 million. Bruce Arena really is a miracle worker for getting the historically stingy Revs to spend that kind of money. #MLS— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 10, 2019
Bou began his career at River Plate in Argentina’s Premera División before completing a few loan stints in his home nation and Ecuador. His career really took flight in 2014 when he transferred to Racing Club, where he racked up 45 goals in 100 appearances and earned a move to Tijuana three years later. While a healthy guaranteed salary surely played a role, it was the Revolution’s adamant approach that really caught Bou’s attention and convinced him to make the move across North America.
The 29-year-old produced an impressive 10 goals and five assists in the most recent Liga MX Clausura, which was in the top five across the league in both categories. The Revs will be hoping he can replicate his ability to heat up as the season progresses; he found the back of the net seven times and added two assists in his final six appearances for Xolos. He is able to carve out chances for himself and others, but his most valuable qualities are his positional awareness in the area and nose for goal.
Need a confident penalty taker in the dying minutes of a tight affair? He’s got you covered.
Bou’s arrival could not have come at a more opportune time. Only Cincinnati and Columbus have netted fewer goals than New England’s 22, but Teal Bunbury has come to life under the new manager by scoring five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions. Meanwhile, Gil continues to dish up quality chances week in and week out and his team-leading six assists will likely see an uptick with Bou prowling the box.
New England are unbeaten in their last seven matches — four wins and three draws — and will look to avoid defeat for the third consecutive away contest when they visit D.C. United on Friday night. If Bou is able to perform anywhere close to the level he displayed in Mexico and Argentina, his new side will have a very good shot at securing a playoff spot despite their rough start and will prove a very tricky matchup for an Eastern Conference foe.