FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution assistant coach Richie Williams praised his side’s tenacity and togetherness in Wednesday night’s hard-fought 1-0 triumph over the New York Red Bulls.
Giacomo Vrioni’s first-half strike separated the sides on a feisty evening at Gillette Stadium, as the Revs ground out a vital three points to bounce back to winning ways and lift themselves back up to second spot in the Eastern Conference.
Speaking after the game, Williams expressed his pride for the way the team battled for each other, and for their effective management of a hotly-contested clash against a physical Red Bulls outfit.
“It was a great effort by the guys,” he reflected. “It was not an easy game. Red Bulls, the way they play, they make it difficult on you. They're super intense, they're constantly playing balls forward, putting you under pressure when you have the ball, constantly pressuring you.
“Red Bulls always make it super competitive. Every game should be competitive, and you have to bring the competitiveness, you have to bring the energy. The other night [against CF Montréal], I thought we had it, but I thought we got a little bit more of it [on Wednesday].
“Our soccer came out at times when it was the right time to play, and other times, we had to battle and compete. There were a couple of bad tackles, and it was great to see the guys sticking up for one another on the field.
“It was not an easy game, but we got the goal we needed, created some other opportunities, and then we stayed in the game and defended fairly well.
“I thought the substitutes did well. They brought the energy. They came in and we had some opportunities to run in behind. I think Bobby [Wood] had one where he was in, but it was a bad touch.
“Noel [Buck] did a great job, and Ema [Boateng] and Bobby, too, so it was very helpful. It was a great team effort to get the three points.”
Another game-winning strike for Vrioni saw the forward net his ninth goal of the season in all competitions to top the club’s scoring charts for the year. Bagging his third goal in his last three regular season home games, the 24-year-old latched onto Mark-Anthony Kaye’s through-ball on the half-hour and drilled superbly into the far corner.
Williams hailed the quality of the service and finish, and believes Vrioni could play a significant role as the Revs chase a memorable postseason campaign.
“That’s the important thing – the other night in Montréal, we didn’t have a lot in the final third,” Williams admitted. “Our entry ball into the final third the other night, six or seven other times we could have got in and we got cut out, or we missed the pass, or we just didn’t give him a lot of opportunities, a lot of service from wide positions, balls in behind …
“We did tonight. I think it was Mark who played the ball in for him, and Giacomo will continue to work hard. He’ll make the runs, and he has the ability to score goals, as we saw.”
Williams also highlighted the performances of the defensive backline in protecting goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr.
In the absences of Brandon Bye, Ryan Spaulding, Andrew Farrell and DeJuan Jones, defenders Ben Sweat and Omar Gonzalez, and midfielder Matt Polster stepped in alongside Dave Romney, producing a solid display to limit the Reds Bulls to just two shots on target, and earn a welcome shutout.
“We had some injuries,” Williams added. “We felt like we put together a deep team and have faith in all our players, and support for them.
“They came in and did a good job and it’s important. You need your guys who don’t play all the time to come in and do a good job for you. I thought they did that, and it was great to get the victory.
“We also used Earl back there, so you have a bunch of players playing back there that haven’t played a lot, so I think they all did a great job. They defended well.
“We talked about Earl and we talked about our defenders, but it’s the midfielders, it’s the forwards, it starts up top, too, and how they all defend as a group.
“It’s nice for everyone to get a shutout. Earl has been real solid for us and obviously with Djordje [Petrović] leaving, one of the best goalkeepers in the league leaving, he’s filled in really nicely for us.
“Ben Sweat was flying up and down the left flank and had lots of energy. For a guy who hasn’t played 90 minutes since he’s been here, he did a really good job for us. Omar has been great the last couple of games defending for us and again hadn’t played a ton of minutes.
“Matt is playing right back. He played right back in the past a while ago, but he’s done a solid job for us. Dave has been a rock all year long.
“With Earl behind him they’ve been very solid. It’s really nice to see that they defended well together. We need to continue that moving forward.”
New England will now look to build a run of momentum as the regular season nears its conclusion.
Sitting in second place in the East and third spot in the Supporters’ Shield standings, the Revs have enjoyed an impressive campaign, and Williams asserts the squad have sights fully set on finishing with a flourish, eager to continue their excellent unbeaten home form in Saturday’s visit of Austin FC.
“We’re always pushing to win,” he stated. “We’re always pushing to win and be as high as we can in the standings.
“[FC] Cincinnati keeps winning. I think that they ended up winning [2-1 over Atlanta United], so credit to Cincinnati. They’re a good team this year and having a good year, but we’re going to keep pushing.
“As we know, it’s playoffs here, so getting into the playoffs and getting a higher seed, a higher position to get a higher seed in the playoffs is important.
“We’ll take it one game at a time. Saturday is another home game against Austin, who had a great year last year – maybe a little up and down this year, but you can’t take them for granted.
“They have some talented players and it’s not going to be easy. We want to keep that unbeaten run going on Saturday.
“It's always great to be at home with your fans in your home stadium, getting the support from them to help you along the way and keep that that record going. Hopefully, again we'll do that on Saturday.”