Last year, during his first loan to Inter Miami CF from English Premier League side Aston Villa, US youth national team attacker Indiana Vassilev had plenty of bright moments.
Now back on loan at the Florida-based club, the 21-year-old hit a new crowning one in Saturday night’s 2-1 comeback win over Minnesota United FC at DRV PNK Stadium.
He came off the bench in the 83rd minute, then scored an equalizer (87th minute) and a game-winner (90th minute) to turn a home loss into a rousing three points.
Head coach Phil Neville felt the two-goal performance was always within reach.
“I pulled him [aside] before the game and the one thing I said to him is that your goals will come,” Neville said. “Just compose yourself a little bit more. He's had three, four, five chances in games and just snatched at it. He's getting more and more tense, the more games he doesn't score. I said, 'Look, you'll get your chance today and you've just got to compose yourself.'”
WATCH: Vassilev scores back-to-back to steal Inter Miami win over Minnesota United
Vassilev has offered encouraging signs since coming back to MLS, having tallied three goals in 21 games (seven starts) a season ago. He’s still chasing a breakthrough at his parent club, and more man-of-the-match performances are certainly a good path toward that aim.
“I feel like since I've been here, I have gotten in good positions, but I haven't been able to have that finishing touch,” Vassilev said. “Call it up tight if you want, but it just clicked today. The first one went in and then the second one probably wouldn't have gone in if I didn't score the first.”
Vassilev’s part of a deep winger corps at Inter Miami, a position that reflects their new-look roster. He replaced Costa Rican international Ariel Lassiter, while Finnish international Robert Taylor, U22 Initiative dynamo Emerson Rodriguez and former SuperDraft No. 1 pick Robbie Robinson (injured long-term) help fill out the depth chart. All but Robinson joined over the winter or spring.
Collectively, they’re inspiring a Miami side that continues to take strides forward in 2022. They’ll end MLS Week 16 eighth in the Eastern Conference standings (21 points, 6W-7L-3D record).
“This year's team has more resilience to us, meaning that if we do go a goal behind – I don't want to say last year everyone's head drops, but I feel like last year it would have been way more difficult for us to get back in the game,” Vassilev said. “I can't really give you a reason for that, but this year it seems that we're a more resilient team. So when we do go a goal down, heads don't really drop.”
Vassilev was concurring with Neville, who again asserted they’re a “different Inter Miami team” this go-around. Their Bulgarian-American attacker from Georgia, in the latest three-point coup, is a major reason why.
“I'm really, really proud of Indiana,” Neville said. “Since he's come in, he's totally livened up the place again. He's a really good kid.”