Giacomo Vrioni keeps New England atop the East, but "can do a better job" 


Giacomo Vrioni, by just about any measure, had a man-of-the-match showing Saturday night for the New England Revolution.

The Albanian international striker scored a first-half brace in the hosts’ 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, plus drew a second-half red card on SKC center back Andreu Fontàs.

Yet when asked postgame about their Designated Player, Revs head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena kept his praise short and sweet.

“Well, he scored two goals tonight,” Arena said. “That’s what we like about that.”

Arena, often succinct in interviews, added they saw a “good effort by Giacomo.” That’s about it.

Vrioni, signed last July from Italian Serie A powerhouse Juventus FC, joined New England after Polish international Adam Buksa was transferred to Ligue 1 side Lens. Those changes in the No. 9 role – the DPs bare a striking resemblance in technique and their left-foot dominant play – have created a fair amount of expectations.

Matchday 9 provided the biggest indicator yet that Vrioni could come good in New England, where he’s played just 581 minutes across 15 games. The 24-year-old, who previously was a top Austrian Bundesliga goalscorer while on loan at WSG Tirol, has experienced stops and starts in MLS.

“When you get a lot of minutes to play, it’s better for a striker,” Vrioni said. “But I have to continue to work every day in training because I know I can do a better job. I’m not thinking about my game today because I know I can do a better job helping the team during the game.”

Vrioni’s big night also came with winger Dylan Borrero (red card) suspended and forwards Gustavo Bou (right leg), Bobby Wood (left foot) and Jozy Altidore (undisclosed) out injured. Arena, based on early-season lineups, may prefer them alongside DP playmaker Carles Gil. Or, at the bare minimum, there are options.

What is certain is Arena, despite New England sitting atop the Eastern Conference table (6W-1L-2D record), strongly believes they can play much better than their showing vs. the Western Conference’s last-place team.

“We could’ve done everything better the second half, from the start to the finish,” Arena said. “It started where guys are standing around, not moving to the ball, not communicating, and it ends up with a breakaway that we can’t even convert. So, it was just a real sloppy second half. Very disappointed in that.”

The task increases significantly next Saturday, hosting FC Cincinnati (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass) at Gillette Stadium. Both East sides are on 20 points, but New England’s ahead on goals (15) and goal differential (+7).

 “They’ve done a good job to date, but we can’t walk off the field tonight feeling good about that performance,” Arena said.