FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution forward Giacomo Vrioni dedicated his first Revs hat trick to the beloved Olivia Knighton.
The 24-year-old striker scored a superb treble in Wednesday night’s Leagues Cup visit of Atlético de San Luis, inspiring Bruce Arena’s side to an excellent 5-1 win, which secured progression to the Round of 32. Gustavo Bou was also on the scoresheet, and Julio Domínguez netted an own goal, as the hosts raced into a 4-1 halftime lead.
Speaking after the game, Vrioni expressed his delight to have produced a key contribution, but above all, was honored to have been able to deliver an emotional message of support to former Revolution teammate and current Academy coach Brad Knighton and his family, following the tragic passing of their 11-year-old daughter Olivia last week.
“I’m happy that we won, and I want to dedicate this win to Olivia,” he said. “She passed away a few days ago, so these three goals, and this win are for her.”
Vrioni opened the scoring with a smart first-time effort on the quarter-hour mark, and doubled his personal tally before the break, finishing off a free-flowing, counter-attacking move.
Sliding home Brandon Bye’s delivery on the hour to complete his hat trick, bagging his fifth goal in six games, he was also pleased to have issued the perfect response, after seeing his penalty saved in the shootout loss to the New York Red Bulls in the Revs’ Leagues Cup opener on Saturday.
“It’s important because after we lost at Red Bulls, and I lost the penalty, the best answer I could give was on the field,” he added.
“The goals were all beautiful – all three. It doesn’t matter sometimes how we score because there are different ways to score, so I’m happy.
“We work for this. Sometimes it cannot happen, and sometimes, it does. We worked hard defensively, and offensively, we did the maximum with a beautiful win.
“We did it as team, we are happy, and now we move on in this competition because we want to try to win it.”
The forward’s second goal of the night saw Bou, Carles Gil and Vrioni combine beautifully – captain Gil dummying Bou’s delivery into Vrioni’s path to slot home.
The hat-trick hero was full of praise for his teammates, and was delighted to see their efforts on the training ground replicated on the pitch.
“They are two amazing players with a lot of experience,” Vrioni hailed. “They helped me – but the most important thing is always the team. If we work for the team, the quality will come out.
“I work, I’m there every day. It’s all about how much dedication you can dedicate yourself – how much hard work. Today was an amazing day, and now we’re trying to have more.”
Captain Gil was equally complimentary of Vrioni’s impact, and believes the Albania international is growing in confidence as he continues to build rhythm.
“The best thing for a striker is to score goals and he had three. We are very happy,” he reflected.
“We can see him playing better and better now, and being more confident. He’s a very good striker and I’m sure he will continue to score goals.”
Gil was also impressed with his side’s ruthless first-half display, which saw the Revs gain an early lead and answer Mateo Klimowicz’s volleyed equalizer emphatically with three goals inside 10 minutes.
Heading into the break with a commanding advantage, Arena’s men were able to see the victory out comfortably, adding Vrioni’s third of the night to seal the points – and Leagues Cup progression – in style.
“Obviously, when you go into halftime up 4-1, your confidence is high,” Gil continued.
“We wanted to continue like that and not concede another goal. I think they scored a very good goal, but we tried to help Djordje [Petrović] a little. We didn’t concede another goal, so we are happy.
“I think we had a very good first half. We created many opportunities. They did also. I think we could have defended a little bit better.
“It’s what we want. I think last year, we had many loose opportunities when we created chances. This year, we are scoring many goals – everyone up top, all the strikers, so we are very happy.
“Every time we’ve played here [at Gillette Stadium] this year, we are very happy. With our fans, we win games, so we want to continue this.
“We knew that we needed three points if we wanted to continue to play in this tournament. I think MLS teams are showing that we are a very good league.
“It’s not easy for the Mexican teams – playing away is never easy. It’s only the beginning, so we want to continue to win games.”