FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tajon Buchanan’s transfer to Club Brugge was soon met with the Foxborough arrival of Dylan Borrero, a 20-year old winger with similar qualities. Even before Matt Turner left to join up with Arsenal FC, young goalkeeper Djordje Petrović had signed on to take his place between the pipes. And on Tuesday morning, less than one month after the New England Revolution announced the transfer of Adam Buksa to RC Lens, a new Designated Player was unveiled in the form of 23-year-old forward Giacomo Vrioni, arriving via transfer from Juventus FC.
The string of like-for-like moves is hardly a coincidence, but rather a trend, and one which sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena and his technical staff have been working tirelessly to make a reality since taking the reins in New England a little more than three years ago.
“This is new for the Revolution,” Arena said on Tuesday afternoon. “I think we’re trying real hard to move the club forward. We realize we’ve been a little bit behind in a lot of areas, and we’re trying to catch up.”
With the Borrero, Petrović, and Vrioni signings quickly following significant European moves for Buchanan, Turner, and Buksa, that process is happening rapidly. Much like they did with Borrero/Buchanan and Petrović/Turner, the Revs were able to attract Vrioni by pointing directly to the example of Buksa, who arrived two-and-a-half years ago as a 23-year-old striker looking to raise his profile. By the time Buksa left to join Ligue 1, he had become one of the top forwards in MLS and a regular with the Poland National Team ahead of this winter’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Vrioni, 23, arrives in New England after he was joint top scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga last season – scoring 19 goals while on loan with WSG Tirol – and with six appearances with the Albania National Team under his belt.
“In the case of Giacomo and some of our previous Designated Players, we can sell them on the fact that we now have a history as a club where we develop players and move players on to Europe if that’s their ambition,” said Arena. “I think that was the case with Adam Buksa when we brought him in. It certainly will be the case with Giacomo, and Matt Turner has now recently left, as has Tajon Buchanan.
“We are one of the few clubs in MLS – not that there aren’t a number that do it, as well – that can develop players and move them on to what they believe are better opportunities for them in Europe. That’s certainly a selling point.”
Those opportunities, however, will be down the road, and for now Vrioni arrives in New England on a long-term deal that will make him a DP through the 2025 season, with an additional one-year club option. The hope is that he’ll fit seamlessly into the Revolution’s already dynamic attack, leading the line with a 6-foot-2 frame and an ability to score with both feet and his head.
“We were looking for an attacking player, whether it was a midfield player or a striker,” Arena said. “Obviously those positions require some different qualities, for sure, but in the end we felt that we had a good opportunity to bring in a number nine that could be very successful in this league, and that’s why we brought him in.
“Giacomo physically has good size, he runs well in and around the penalty area, is a left-footed player, and he had an outstanding goalscoring record this year in the Austrian league, and we did make note of the fact that a number of players that have come from that league in MLS have done well, so we feel it’s a good fit.”
New England’s pursuit of Vrioni didn’t last long, as Arena said he first came onto the Revolution’s radar within the past couple of months. From there everything moved relatively quickly, and it was in recent weeks that negotiations with both Juventus and the player began to heat up, ultimately finalized with the deal announced on Tuesday morning.
As is always the case with international signings, Vrioni will need to receive his visa and International Transfer Certificate before arriving in Foxborough and officially joining the club, and Arena said he anticipates that process will play out over the next couple weeks, hopefully leading to a mid-July arrival.
When the Italian-born striker does land stateside there will of course be an acclimation process as he adjusts to a new club, league, city, and way of life, though Vrioni won’t face a language barrier as he already speaks English.