“Both our goals were excellent” | Vrioni brace gets Revs back to winning ways against Atlanta

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Would it really be the Fourth of July if the New England Revolution weren’t coming into it with a win?

Fortunately, that’s not a question that needs to be worried about this year, as the Revs got back to winning ways at home against Atlanta United FC on Wednesday night thanks to a first-half brace from Giacomo Vrioni. The victory was a key one in the context of the Eastern Conference standings, lifting New England up to 11th place (7-11-1, 22 pts.) ahead of a trip to Seattle this weekend.

It’s now five wins in their last six games for the Revolution, a run that has seen the team overcome key absences to injury, including that of captain Carles Gil. A number of depth players have come in and made major impacts in that time, but up front, it has been Vrioni who has taken the initiative and stepped up his own game in a big way. This time last month, the DP striker had only scored twice on the season; now, he leads the team with seven goals, a tally that already surpasses his total from last season.

Head coach Caleb Porter said after the game that he was very happy with the progression he had seen from Vrioni in recent weeks.

“Four goals in three games, which I really like,” Porter said. “He had two goals [against FC Cincinnati], and then, you know, last game [against the Columbus Crew] he should have scored three or four. But his mentality now to bounce back was very good. We hadn’t seen that out of him; he had gone periods where it was three, four, five games without scoring. So, for me, to see his mentality in this game, to shrug off last game and missing some chances, to now find two goals, I thought was excellent – a big part of us winning the game.”

Vrioni also had his own praise for Porter for the way the coach has ignited the run of form that he individually and the team collectively are now enjoying.

“We had a new coach with new systems, with new ideas, so everyone had to adapt,” Vrioni said of the early part of the season. “We needed time. And we follow him, because in the end he is a winner; he won two MLS Cups, so we are lucky to have him. We are happy to have him here.

“He’s given me consistency,” he added. “That is the most important thing for a player. I’m happy to have him here, because he has a good mentality and we have to [pay him back] on the field.”

Both of Vrioni’s goals against the Five Stripes were made possible by excellent assists, the first a scathing through-ball from defender DeJuan Jones, and the second a perfectly-placed cross from midfielder Noel Buck. Porter has said at points this season that the service to Vrioni hadn’t been good enough; now, the coach is looking forward to seeing his striker make even more of the opportunities he’s getting.

“Both our goals I thought were excellent goals,” Porter said. “Good ball by DeJuan, the first one, Giacomo in the channel and then great individual play out of him. And then our second goal was excellent – front-half control, positional attack, we stayed on the ball, circulated it, very patient … great in-swinging cross and a good finish from Giacomo.”

“He’s been getting more good service,” he added later. “It’s interesting, because second half he missed some easy ones, but then first half, the first goal he created for himself really, by and large. That’s the other thing that I’m seeing a little bit more with him: he’s not just the guy that needs the ball in the perfect spot for a tap-in goal, he can create a little bit for himself, which is good to see. He’s still got to continue, in the easy moments, to poach goals. I still think he’s missing some easy ones.”

And Vrioni himself stated that he not only acknowledged the pressure on him to perform, but that he relished it.

“I like this idea, to have weight [on my shoulders],” he said, “because you become more mature … I always try to work hard every day, to have consistency, discipline – morning, afternoon, always.”

It was a quick turnaround after facing Columbus last Saturday, and it will be an even quicker turnaround now as the Revs prepare to face Seattle Sounders FC at Lumen Field this coming Saturday. Vrioni knew it would be one more hurdle for the team to overcome this season, but said he was looking forward to it.

“It will be difficult,” he said. “But we have to go with the same mentality of the first half of today, and of the last four games, not [counting] Columbus. It will be tough, because they didn’t play today. But this is not an excuse because, in the end, big teams play every three days. So, it’s not an excuse, but, like what I said, getting recovery, eat well, sleeping, training, and ready for Saturday.”