FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena hailed his side’s clinical attacking display in Wednesday night’s thumping 5-1 Leagues Cup win over Atlético de San Luis.
A Giacomo Vrioni hat trick, Gustavo Bou strike and Julio Domínguez own goal saw the Revolution storm to a superb triumph at Gillette Stadium to book a place in the Round of 32, extending the club’s impressive home streak in 2023, and all-time record against Liga MX opposition to 9-2-1.
Though Arena felt the scoreline flattered his side a little – acknowledging another crucial contribution from goalkeeper Djordje Petrović – he was pleased with the Revs’ ruthlessness in the final third.
“I think our counter attacks were effective,” he reflected. “I think as the game went on, the passing got better.
“In the first half, we were a little fortunate. I think the game was closer than the score would indicate at the half. Djordje made two very big saves, but when you score four goals in 45 minutes, you should win the game.
“In the second half, the fifth goal was obviously huge, and the game was basically over at that point – but the team played well.
“This was an open game, almost too open to my liking. They [San Luis] attack with six, seven players all the time – and when that ball turns over, there's space to counter.
“That game was a bit wide open, and we were a little sloppy with the ball. We got pinned back a little bit at times, and they're a good team – they'll give the [New York] Red Bulls a difficult game on Sunday.”
Analyzing Vrioni’s hat-trick performance, Arena was naturally impressed with the striker’s showing, and highlighted the forward’s third goal of the night as his favorite – a move the team had been working on in training, as the Albania international slid home Brandon Bye’s delivery on the hour.
“He played very well,” the head coach continued. “Gustavo and Carles [Gil] played well with him, and he finished his chances.
“The third goal was something we've been working on with him since he got here – he didn't end up believing that was his job as striker.
“It was just great to see. The third goal was the one that I liked the best actually.”
There was further cause for celebration with midfielder Nacho Gil introduced from the bench for his season debut, having missed the opening five months of the campaign with a knee injury.
Clocking 27 minutes of action, the Spaniard made a welcome comeback, though Arena admitted it will take time for the 27-year-old to return to full fitness.
“He's got a way to go,” the head coach noted. “Obviously, he’s a little rusty. He hasn't played in well over a year, so he's going to need some time.”
Matt Polster, who returned to the matchday squad himself after missing Saturday’s trip to the Red Bulls, was also pleased to see fellow midfielder Gil back on the pitch, and is excited to witness the Gil brothers weaving magic between them in the coming months.
“I’m really happy for him,” Polster said. “Individually, it can be difficult being away from the field – I know that personally.
“It’s hard to be away from the team for long spells, and to not get a lot of minutes, so for him to come in, I thought he was lively on the ball and wanted to create things – just like his brother – so it’s nice to have everybody on the field, working their way back to fitness.”
Polster also discussed the impact of new recruit Mark-Anthony Kaye (who followed up his first Revs appearance on Saturday with a home debut on Wednesday night) – as did Arena, who believes the Canada international and fellow new signing Ian Harkes are combining well together.
“I thought everybody played really well,” Polster continued. “I thought Mark played well also.
“He’s a super good guy in the locker room, a good competitor on the field; he has really good international experience.
“He has done really well his whole career so far with LAFC, and then in Toronto – I know they didn't do well as a group, but he's a good player individually.
“He's definitely someone we can use throughout the season to push on to winning trophies.”
On Kaye and Harkes, Arena stated: “Good players. They’re very compatible with each other.
“They have a good feel for their positioning; they're both good passers of the ball, they play quick. That's helped us, and they can find our players ahead of the ball, which is important.”
Sharing his thoughts on the Revs’ overall performance, Polster was thrilled to see his side utilize home advantage to help dictate the tempo, and ultimately, secure Leagues Cup progression.
“I don't think you expect to score five goals, but you come in with the preparation to be pushing the tempo, especially at home,” he declared.
“Obviously, we know we're good at home – we push the tempo here and we high-press, and put them under pressure.
“I thought we did really well, and in transition we were really good – the three DPs (Designated Players: Gil, Bou and Vrioni) connected on one play (the fourth goal) single-handedly, which is great.
“I thought everybody played really well. They [San Luis] sat off a little bit, they allowed us to keep the ball, but then we have to progress it – it takes movement and players to want the ball to do so.
“I thought we were really good in possession, really good on the defensive side, and Djordje came up with the saves once again.”