TORONTO – Victor Vazquez doesn't score ugly goals.
At least not usually... his late coup de grace in the 2017 MLS Cup Final may not have been the prettiest.
But on Friday night against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field, Vazquez' tidy first half strike proved the game-winner in a 3-0 victory.
His second in as many games after battling through back spasms that have hampered his start to 2018, Vazquez arrived in the box to deftly redirect a Nicolas Hasler pull-back across the face of goal, banking it in off the far-post in the 28th minute.
Where others may have gone for power, Vazquez' finish was all placement.
Add in his lovely clipped finish against Chicago last weekend and Vazquez has found his form as his fitness has begun to come around.
“Not to my best, but at least I'm ready to play from the start,” said Vazquez post-match. “This is what I was working for and now I'm back, I'm ready, scoring some goals. I'm happy to play and help the team. That's the most important for me.”
Hasler was played down the right-side of the box by Sebastian Giovinco, who would add Toronto's second in the 65th minute, lifting his head to pick out Vazquez at the near-post.
“I saw Seba getting the ball and I was wide open,” said Hasler. “Victor tells me a lot in training, 'look back when you play the ball.' He's always there. [I'm] happy he was there then and he could score.”
Laughed Vazquez when told that Hasler had ratted him out: “Not for me.”
“I was saying that when he goes to the line and tries to cross, sometimes also look behind. All the defenders are looking to the goal, to the keeper. Seba and Jozy [Altidore] are making good runs they [need] these passes. Today it worked.”
“Happy because he did what I was saying,” smiled Vazquez, as only a master can when his pupil has absorbed the lesson. “It's important to change the crosses and do something special. This goal was really important for us.”
And Jay Chapman added the third for insurance in the 89th minute, latching on to a lovely ball from Jordan Hamilton before slamming his finish across the keeper into the bottom corner.
It is not just Vazquez' goal-threat that makes his return such a welcome one for TFC.
“Victor's general awareness of the field is spectacular,” said Greg Vanney. “He understands where to move to find gaps and spaces. I call it 'moving against the priorities of the defending team.'”
“If [they] want to move towards where the ball is, he'll move to the opposite direction and find the gap,” continued Vanney. “When he moves into that space, he has already taken a survey of the field and knows where everything is. He knows before he receives the ball his two or three options, knows which one is going to be the most dangerous one and knows his outs if that option doesn't show up.”
“It's fun to watch because I really appreciate guys who play the game between their ears before they do anything, and he's as good as it gets in this league in terms of field awareness and understanding where everybody is at, where everybody should be going,” added Vanney. “And we all see the quality of his passes and technique. For me, the game is turning in his head faster than almost everyone really.”
Said TFC captain Michael Bradley: “His ability to help us find the game, his way of moving and finding space, the way that he can connect things. He makes such a difference.”
“It's great to get him back,” added Bradley. “More than anything I'm so happy to see him feeling good and back on the training field every day. He's such an important guy for our team.”