Gustavo Bou’s future with the Revolution is uncertain, but ‘La Pantera’ is seeking one last hunt for MLS Cup

New England Revolution

Though he doesn’t prefer to play as a lone striker, the Argentine goal scorer could provide exactly what New England needs on the postseason stage.

Gustavo Bou New England Revolution
Gustavo Bou has scored 44 goals and logged 17 assists in 100 career appearances for the Revolution. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

When Gustavo Bou arrived in New England in the summer of 2019, he made an instant (and electric) impact.

In his first game with the Revolution, the Argentine forward smashed a thunderous volley directly off a Carles Gil corner kick into net. It wasn’t just a debut goal, it was jolt to a team that — aside from Gil — had been lacking game-changing talent.

Needless to say, the Revolution won that day, defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 to extend what would become a club record unbeaten run (culminating with the team’s first playoff appearance since 2015).

Flashing forward to 2023, Bou — who has helped the Revolution make the playoffs four times in five seasons — is heading into what could be his final games with New England. He hopes (as do Revolution fans) to make his goodbye as memorable as his introduction.

The Revolution face a best-of-three first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Union starting at Subaru Park on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Bou, 33, is out of contract after the 2023 season. And because the team currently lacks a sporting director (following the August resignation of Bruce Arena), there is little certainty about his future with the club.

Having missed time in the middle of the season due to injury, he’s been slowly working his way back into form. Finally, in the Oct. 21 regular season finale (against Philadelphia), he notched a pair of goals to help the Revolution to a 2-1 win on the cusp of the postseason.

Asked after the game by WPRO’s Tom Quinlan if he’s considered his future, Bou offered a lengthy reply.

“I know it could be one of my last games here,” he said via translation from Revolution communications manager Harold Rivera. “We all know my contract ends at the end of the season. I haven’t talked too much or had many conversations about my future, but I just try to enjoy in the moment, and focus on [the] day-to-day. That’s the mentality and the way I’ve been since my first day here.”

He’s made it perfectly clear that he enjoys living in New England, and there’s a possibility that Bou could return (though he’d likely have to take a pay cut for salary cap purposes from his current status as one of the team’s three Designated Players).

But as he spoke, he sounded like someone contemplating the end of a chapter. It wasn’t all nostalgia, however. He also delivered a message to fans about the upcoming MLS Cup Playoffs.

“If these are my last games with the club, I want them to be my best games and I want to play them in the best way possible,” he explained. “These four years, I’ve enjoyed them a lot. My family has adapted well. My daughters have adapted well. Bruce was really confident in bringing me here when he brought me here, and I’ll always be thankful for the club.”

The potential of seeing a highly motivated Bou — intent on playing his “best games” — is an exciting prospect for Revolution fans.

Aptly nicknamed “La Pantera” (The Panther), he possesses predatory instincts in front of goal. In 100 appearances for the Revolution, he has 44 goals and 17 assists.

Bou is also no stranger to popping up in important moments. His 95th minute strike against Montreal in the 2020 play-in game helped launch New England’s unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals that season.

In the short term, Bou could also be the natural answer to one of the Revolution’s specific problems.

After going weeks towards the end of the regular season without a goal from traditional center forwards Bobby Wood or Giacomo Vrioni, Bou showed that just because he isn’t naturally a lone striker, he can still be effective in the role.

Asked to play upfront by himself in a 4-2-3-1, his movement and ability to connect passes set him apart from interim head coach Clint Peay’s other options at the position.

“One always tries to collaborate with the team. [Peay] knows that. We talked about it. It’s not my habitual position,” Bou said of playing as a lone striker. “I like to play with two strikers. [Peay] knows I can play there and I can do it well.

“I’m always at his disposition. I try to help the team,” he added after the win against the Union. “We had a great game against a great opponent. I talked to [Peay] and my teammates, and that always makes it easier. I always try to adapt to my teammates just as much as I adapt to any position. I have great teammates who get me great opportunities in front of the goal to score.”

The partnership with Gil — forged immediately on that day against Vancouver in 2019 — has always come easily to Bou. The two combined for the Revolution’s second goal against Philadelphia, another good sign for New England fans hoping to see both players at their peak in the postseason.

It was testament to his unique capacity at center forward: Instead of starting as a focal point on the shoulder of the last defender (as perhaps Wood and Vrioni would do), Bou began his run from a deeper position, catching Union center back Damion Lowe unaware as he snuck in behind.

The other, much newer partnership he’s been cultivating is one with fellow Argentine Tomás Chancalay. Signed midseason, Chancalay has been deployed as both a winger and forward. With Bou roaming freely around front line, the two were able to link passes and occasionally interchange positions. As Chancalay has been one of the brighter spots for the Revolution in an up-and-down back end of the regular season, Bou’s ability to connect with him and Gil could end up becoming the best version of the team’s attack.

Having now played professionally in three countries spanning multiple continents, Bou could be forgiven for viewing his time with the Revolution as just another stop in his career. Yet as he concluded the remarks about his future on Saturday, it was clear that New England means far more to him than just a name on a map.

“There’s a phrase that I always say, ‘Football takes you where football wants to take you, not where you want it to take you,’” said Bou. “It’s the first time in my career that I’ve spent this many years at a club, but I’m just fulfilling the contract and I’m enjoying this. Thinking that it could be one of my last games makes me emotional because I’ve had so many great memories with this club, but that’s all I can say.”


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