ORLANDO, Fla. – Halftime substitute Giacomo Vrioni helped spark a second-half comeback on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium, where the New England Revolution closed out their 2023 preseason schedule with a 2-1 win over Orlando City SC.
The Revs trailed to Iván Angulo’s 17th-minute goal but found a way back in the closing stages, Vrioni drawing things level in the 70th minute before an own goal pushed New England in front in the 82nd minute. Revolution goalkeeper Djordje Petrović helped secure the victory with a series of impressive stops, most notably a remarkable double save in the 64th minute.
Revolution midfielder Matt Polster was honest in his assessment of the performance, praising the group for their resilience and fighting spirit while acknowledging there remain areas to improve upon ahead of next weekend’s season opener in Charlotte.
“It’s always important to get a win and build off that, but I thought tonight we were quite sloppy for a majority of the game, so hopefully that doesn’t bleed into the Charlotte game,” Polster said. “But I thought in terms of effort and the team banding together to get a good result is important going into the season.”
Vrioni involved in both Revolution goals as DP forward aims to break out in 2023
Giacomo Vrioni has been quick to admit that his introduction to MLS in 2022 was difficult, as injury limited the 24-year-old forward to just one goal in 248 minutes of action after arriving in early July. An intense offseason workout plan has prepared him for 2023, and the former Juventus striker is now hoping to make a significant impact in his first full season in New England.
Saturday night showed exactly what Vrioni is capable of in MLS, as his movement inside the penalty area created space for Emmanuel Boateng to find him with a left-wing cross, which he met with a powerful header for his first goal of preseason. Vrioni then helped create the game winner, as his dangerous run to the near post forced an Orlando defender to turn Brandon Bye’s right-wing service into his own net.
Add in the assist Vrioni picked up on Dylan Borrero’s game winner in the Revolution’s 1-0 victory over Nashville SC last week, and the forward played a role in three of the Revs’ five goals this preseason.
“It’s brilliant that he scored a goal,” Noel Buck said of Vrioni. “I think he deserves it. He’s a great guy on and off the field. He can do that all year, and we know he can do that. Hopefully this is one goal of many.”
“Giacomo’s a guy that’s always willing to work hard,” added Matt Polster. “He loves this game. He wants to score goals, and for him to kind of finish the preseason out on a high, I think it’ll give him massive confidence going into the Charlotte game.”
Arena continues to integrate new faces as preseason concludes
Several of the Revolution’s offseason additions saw significant action on Saturday night, including center back Dave Romney, who went the full 90 minutes alongside Henry Kessler, and forward Bobby Wood, who started and played the opening 45 minutes. Homegrown midfielder Jack Panayotou also started in central midfield, his third start in five preseason games.
Latif Blessing was unavailable on Saturday night as he’s recovering from a recent knock, but the former Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC midfielder also saw plenty of time this preseason.
“I think we had a good core group of guys from last year, then when you implement other good players, I think it just takes a little bit of time,” said Polster. “From there they start to bring quality to the team and they start to improve us as a whole. It’s always good to bring competition to the group. It pushes the guys that have been here, and it pushes the guys that are coming in, so it’s only positive.”
Revs ready for the real thing as they return to Foxborough for final preparations
After spending the past three weeks in Florida to wrap up six weeks of preseason training, the Revs will head back to New England on Sunday morning to make final preparations ahead of the season opener against Charlotte FC on Saturday, February 25, at Bank of America Stadium.
By the time the Revs kick off in Charlotte it will have been more than four months since their last competitive action, and they’re more than ready for the 2023 season to get underway.
“I think we’re very prepared,” said Buck. “We’re all very fit, we’re all very focused, and I think we’re ready to bring it this year.”