SARASOTA, Fla. – On Sunday, October 9, the New England Revolution’s 2022 season officially ended with a 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire FC at SeatGeek Stadium.
On Monday, October 10, Giacomo Vrioni went to work preparing for 2023.
“To be honest, I didn’t rest,” Vrioni said on Friday morning from Sarasota, Fla., where he’s in the midst of preseason prep with the Revs. “I went back home to Italy and I was focused on getting ready for the new season, so I started working directly. I worked for two months, every day, afternoon and morning. Now that I’m looking at the results, I’m happy about this, even if I didn’t rest a lot, even if I didn’t see a lot of my family. That’s my job. Getting healthy and getting ready is the most important thing.”
Vrioni is single-minded in his focus on the future. The 24-year-old Designated Player arrived from Juventus last July and made his Revolution debut a few weeks later, but a knee injury largely derailed his introduction to MLS. He made just two substitute appearances before missing more than a month of action, and while he scored from the penalty spot in New England’s home finale, a 2-1 win over Atlanta United, Vrioni finished his first half-season in New England with one goal in seven appearances (two starts), totaling 248 minutes.
Arriving midseason to a new club, new league, and new country can be challenging enough, but add on the frustration of a nagging injury, and Vrioni admits that his first three months in the league presented too many obstacles to make a smooth transition.
“It was difficult because to come in midseason when the other guys are all ready, all the [other] teams are ready, it wasn’t easy, you know?” Vrioni said. “A new player coming in, I wanted to show everything, but with this injury I got a little bit of a problem and I didn’t play a lot. So, for me, it wasn’t easy.
“But the past is the past, so we have to think right now about what is coming. That’s the most important thing. I learned a lot from last season, as a team and what I can do better for myself. Now, we are getting ready.”
And Vrioni feels ready. His efforts working out twice a day, every day, during the offseason have paid off, and that work ethic has continued into the 2023 preseason. Vrioni has been spending both extra time in the gym to build his strength and fitness, and extra time on the field after training sessions working with goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock on finishing drills.
The result is a player feeling 100 percent, and ready to tackle a new season with a clean slate.
“I’m feeling good, to be honest,” Vrioni said. “I’m working a lot also after training to grow (as a player). This is what I want. I hope that I will help the team. That’s my challenge.”
Vrioni is also a student of the game and spends plenty of time studying the world’s best strikers, trying to pull elements of their styles into his own. He’s particularly fond of Manchester City superstar Erling Haaland, noting the way he attacks space and moves behind opposing backlines, but he also enjoys watching Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema, two of the sport’s most prolific goal scorers.
Because he dedicates so much of his time and energy to improving as a player, Vrioni hasn’t had much of a chance to explore Boston, where he lives, but he prefers it that way. Most nights are spent at home relaxing with his wife, preparing both physically and mentally for the next day’s work.
The hope, of course, is that this dogged dedication will lead to results on the field, both for Vrioni and the Revolution. Forwards are often judged, fairly or unfairly, by a single metric – goals scored – and while Vrioni said he has targets for himself in 2023, he’s only interested in discussing one objective.
“Winning, winning, winning, winning,” Vrioni said when asked what would make 2023 successful. “Help the team, that’s my goal. Hopefully winning because that’s the reason why we are here, because we want to win something. It will be difficult, but we are confident about this, so we’ll keep pushing, because I believe in this team.”