In the immense and vaunted history of New England Revolution Designated Players...
No, no...I can’t finish that sentence. Let’s be very honest. Two of the best DP’s in Revs history are currently playing for New England right now. This is a good thing, cause there’s a lot of not great memories on the rest of that DP list beside montages of Jose Goncalves shielding balls out of bounds.
But in particular, the last two times the Revs had a serious turnaround in form midseason, it came on the backs of a major signing. And/or a major firing depending on your point of view.
In 2014 in what will be known in MLS lore as the Legend of the Blind Draw, the Revs acquired Jermaine Jones, rattled off 5 straight wins, won 9 of their last 11, and marched all the way to yet another MLS Cup Final loss. But dammit that ride was fun as hell and I think we’d all agree to do it again.
In 2019, Bruce Arena (and eventual MLS Coach of the Year Mike Lapper) took over for a beleaguered New England side, got them out of last place, signed Gustavo Bou, and have lost only once in 16 matches and are now in a playoff spot.
Bou has not featured for the entirety of that stretch but it still is worth mentioning his impact on the team. In just eight appearances (all of them starts and about 700 minutes of play), Bou has already racked up 6 goals and an assist and two game winning goals in his short MLS career on top of the point he helped salvage with a late equalizer against TFC just last weekend.
In barely two months, Bou looks like the kind of pure finisher the Revs have desperately lacked the past decade and could be the attacker New England needs to carry the scoring load on a team that has too often relied on scoring by committee. This doesn’t mean Bou needs to put up numbers like Vela, Ibra or Martinez...but would 15 goals a year be pretty nice? Absolutely.
All of this leads us the following question...which signing was more important to New England: Jones or Bou?
The case for Jones is far simpler, because we know the final result of the season five years ago. Jones was the final piece to an already solid team and helped get them over the top. The 2014 Revs were on an upswing thanks to one MV-Lee Nguyen and a host of first round draft picks and homegrown players. It was the last gasp of an MLS 1.0 roster that found it’s MLS 2.0 DP to get it over the top. And it nearly worked.
Bou, along with Carles Gil, are very much the beginnings of the Revs’ first ever MLS 3.0 roster. And that is not a compliment for the Revs organization as a whole. Bruce Arena turned the Galaxy into the money spending juggernaut they are/are supposed to be nearly a decade ago. While it’s nice the Revs are finally catching up with the times, it’s also the reason why I believe there’s no doubt Bou is going to be the much more important or bigger signing overall than Jones.
Since Bou officially joined the Revs lineup, a double win week back in mid June that jumped the Revs from 9th place over the red line into 7th, New England as a 4W-1L-3D record and has a chance to not just make the playoffs, but also potential host a first round matchup. That was an unfathomable thought just a few months ago when in early May the Revs were in dead last in the Eastern Conference.
But while this a playoff run this year would be an amazing turnaround, I still do not believe that simply making the playoffs is an accomplishment in MLS, it’s the years beyond and the changes and growth Arena will give Bou and the team as a whole that likely changes this debate.
Jermaine Jones was never going to get the financial support around him that I believe Bou will get over the next few years. In 2015, the Revs made no major additions and failed to resign center back AJ Soares, a move that New England is still trying to recover from in some ways. By 2016, Jones was in Colorado and the Revs were on their way to the Brad Friedel era. And we know how that turned out.
Just by simply identify and signing Bou weeks after starting the job, Arena already has proven that he can scout and sign top talent for New England. The trick now is to build the roster as a whole to his liking, and managing the various MLS resources that go into a complete squad. Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil are likely going to play on a better team next year and the year after that because their head coach and general manager is going to support the squad around them and make everyone better from top to bottom. By already shelling out $7 million for a transfer fee, shattering the previous team record of $2M for Gil, ownership may finally realize how MLS works as well.
Jones never had that support or the chance to play on an improving team, it was and always will be, the blockbuster summer deal that almost was. Which is a shame because I still think that Revs team had another run in them in 2015 or beyond if they had the financial support that Arena is going to get now. Alas, the downfall of the Jones and Jay Heaps era will forever be added to the long list of proverbial “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” in Revs history. Even if Bou and the Revs never make it to an MLS Cup like that 2014 Jones team did, I think Bou will be around for far longer and have more opportunities to make that big playoff run than the single and wonderful trip five years ago.
But this is where the debate shifts to you the readers and the comments below. Which was the bigger summer DP signing in Revs history - Jones or Bou? Does the one amazing half season of Jones and an MLS Cup Final appearance put Jermaine on top or is the promising start to the In Bruce We Trust Era enough to say Bou is the better signing long term?
Add your thoughts into the comments below and regale us with your stories of that magical summer of 2014 and how it differs/equals to the current Revs run up the standings.