2019 MLS Week 19 Preview — D.C. United (8-7-5) vs. New England (6-5-8)

With Bruce Arena’s reclamation project taking hold faster than expected, the New England Revolution unexpectedly find themselves on the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

They look to run their league unbeaten streak to eight matches Friday night when they face D.C. United in a crucial showdown at Audi Field in the nation’s capital.

Arena was named Revolution coach and sporting director in May after one of the worst four-match stretches in club history. New England (6-5-8) was outscored 18-5 while claiming just one point in that stretch, capped by back-to-back five-goal losses at Philadelphia and Chicago.

The Revolution have gone 4-3-0 in league play since a 5-0 thrashing administered by the Fire on May 8 and 5-3-1 in all competitions, climbing from the foot of the Eastern Conference table to eighth place. They are tied with Toronto FC on 23 points for the seventh and final playoff spot but trail on goal difference, an issue likely to continue throughout the playoff chase since the Revs have the worst goal difference among themselves, TFC, Orlando City SC, and Chicago in the race for seventh.

New England bolstered its attack Wednesday, acquiring striker Gustavo Bou from Liga MX side Tijuana via transfer. Bou, who recorded 21 goals and 14 assists in 55 matches with Tijuana, has been marked as a Designated Player by the club, with the Argentine’s transfer fee and salary worth a reported $12 million that could escalate to as much as $16 million.

Bou’s arrival continues the wave of Argentine attacking players who are carving out niches across the league. NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez was named MLS Player of the Month for June, and Portland’s Brian Fernandez recently set a MLS record by scoring in his first five league matches.

“He’s a different class,” Arena told the Boston Globe on Wednesday about Bou, who could be available for this match if all his paperwork is processed. “He gives us a real bit of quality in the attacking end of the field. He’s an attacking player. He’s not necessarily a 9 (center forward), not necessarily a 10 (midfield playmaker), but he’s an attacking player and he can help create goals, and we’re pleased to have him. He’s coming here with a great attitude and he can help us build a team that is better than the one we have.”

New England has won back-to-back games after defeating Colorado 2-1 on the 4th of July, getting goals from Teal Bunbury and Juan Caicedo on either side of halftime.

D.C. (8-7-5) enters this contest second in the East, five points behind the Philadelphia Union but with a match in hand. United carry a six-match home unbeaten streak (3-3-0) into this match yet have only one victory in their last eight league contests (1-5-2) following a 2-0 defeat at FC Dallas on July 4.

Wayne Rooney was fortunate to have a red card in the 30th minute reduced to a yellow following a VAR review, but fellow playmaker Luciano Acosta was not as fortunate, getting his marching orders in the 73rd minute for a stamping of Paxton Pomykal. Acosta will miss this match to serve his red card suspension, but the Black-and-Red will get winger Paul Arriola back following his stint for the U.S. national team at the Gold Cup. Arriola started five matches in the continental tournament and finished with two goals and one assist.

The teams played to a 1-1 draw in New England on May 25, with Rooney’s penalty kick in the 90th minute rescuing a point for D.C. The 10-men Revs grabbed a 1-0 lead through Juan Agudelo on 61 minutes.

(Gustavo Bou photo courtesy New England Revolution official Twitter account)

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