Indiana Vassilev has been itching to play a key role since arriving back at Inter Miami this May and the Aston Villa loanee answered the call in a major fashion on Saturday as Phil Neville’s side extended its current home unbeaten run to six matches.
Vassilev came off of the bench to score the equalizing and winning goals in a 2-1 home victory over Minnesota United, helping Inter Miami move up to eighth place in the East. The 21-year-old Vassilev had only made six appearances for the Florida-based club since arriving back on loan in the United States, but he made a great impact on Saturday by netting his first two goals of the 2022 season.
“Very happy on a personal note, but most importantly got three points on the board and now we go to next week…Everyone is ecstatic,” Vassilev said postmatch. “Three points at home and it kind of sets the tone for the next couple of games. It’s just good to get a win and just try and get a couple of games, a string of games where we can win games, and that’s what we need to stay in that playoff picture.”
“This is the new Inter Miami,” Neville said. “We’ve got substitutes going on that want to play for their team. We spoke before the game about the sacrifices needed to win and be successful, and the sacrifice is that you put aside your egos, and you go on the pitch or you’re on the bench supporting each other. I think I’m a lucky manager that I’ve got a team at this moment in time that we’ve recruited that have got all the qualities you need for a team to be successful or at least compete.”
After making five-consecutive starts in the Inter Miami attack, Vassilev did not get the nod at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, setting for his opportunity off of the bench. The move did not phase Vassilev, who showed great awareness in the final third, roofing a shot past Dayne St. Clair in the 87th minute before stroking home his second goal in three minutes to propel Inter Miami in front for good.
Although Vassilev has yet to earn a consistent chance in England with his parent club Aston Villa, the former U.S. Youth national team player showed Saturday his main focus is on helping the Eastern Conference club continue to improve this season.
“I’m really, really proud of Indiana,” Neville said. “I think since he’s come in, he’s totally, totally livened up the place again, and is a really good kid.”
“This year we seem a more resilient team so when we do go a goal down, heads don’t really drop and I think today we felt that we should have gotten something out of the game and we did,” Vassilev said. “Coming on today and watching the game I really felt like we were going to get something out of the game, whether that was going to be a draw or a win.”
Inter Miami has only suffered defeat twice in its past eight matches across all competitions, with one of those coming in the U.S. Open Cup. Recent victories over New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, and Minnesota United have steadied the ship for the Herons, who now hit the road for back-to-back matches against FC Dallas and Orlando City to kick off July’s busy schedule.
Vassilev’s impact this weekend will not only give the young forward confidence going into a six-match slate this July, but will have his Inter Miami teammates and his head coach Phil Neville excited for what he can offer going forward.