VMP Final Countdown 2017: Number 1 – Victor Vazquez
Average ranking: 2.08
Kristin: 1 – As I say pretty much every time we watch him play; he plays in the Matrix. That’s the only (not really) explanation for his ability to see two, three steps ahead of everyone else, send in those delicious passes and bend the game to his will – wonderful stuff.
Last year Toronto FC were a good team – a very good team in fact – but there was an obvious issue with their game and that was the transition from the midfield to the final third; as good as the midfield was, and as talented as Jozy and Seba are, they were still having difficulty getting the ball to those two talented players; things just stopped and goals were harder to come by than they should have been. It was the thing (other than proper right back coverage) that we talked about most in 2016 as a missing element over the course of the season.
Enter Victor Vazquez – did you know that he’s from Barcelona?! (no really, that’s where he was born, what did you think I was talking about?) – the Spanish midfielder from La Masia, best pals with Messi and so on. But due to injury and so on he didn’t get to the big stage with Barca, instead after over a decade at Camp Nou he signed with Club Brugge and see the greatest success of his career. After several years with Brugge he made the move to Cruz Azul (remember them?) that proved to be near disastrous, and that’s when Bez came calling. (*Editor’s note: I realise that you all know this, but a little background is fun and the In Brugges clip had to go in there somewhere*)
Outside of all the breathless chatter about his Barcelona pedigree, looking at his time with Brugge was an indicator of the type of player we were getting, one that could hit a dead ball, one that could pull the strings and possibly be the creative AM that we’d been looking for. The first few games were rough as the rest of the team struggled to be where he expected them to be; you could see the disconnect as beautiful passes were wasted as runs weren’t made and open space wasn’t used. But then it all started to click, his new teammates started to trust him, they came to expect the passes, they made the runs and boy wasn’t it fun to watch.
Vazquez has a knack for finding the smallest space through which to send a pass, and then he can just as easily lob what looks like a ball going nowhere right onto the foot of a teammate – it’s kind of magical. With VV in the side Michael Bradley was able to stay home and patrol the midfield (breaking up plays, advancing the ball, and keeping things locked down), he didn’t have to come up the field so often – that was VV’s job. And the difference it made was noticeable – Toronto FC scored 23 more goals in 2017 than in 2016; the defensive numbers didn’t change much, but those goals! Potting 8 goals (6 of them game winners), AND 16 assists! Not too shabby eh? I’ve said it all season long, without Vazquez they are not the same team, they don’t win all the things (or not as many of the things) and I doubt that they win the Cup. And that’s why despite stellar seasons from Bradley and Altidore, he’s my Number 1 on the countdown.
Here’s his delightful under the wall free kick goal:
And another from the drubbing of the Galaxy (with a very nice assist from Bono):
Mark: 1 – He was the missing piece from going from a very good side to an excellent side.
Tony: 2 – You probably don’t know this but Vazquez played for (wait for it) – BARCELONA! The La Liga hyperbole isn’t his fault and all he did was prove that he was a class above your average MLS midfielder. At times sublime and the piece that was missing from runners-up to Champions.
Duncan: 2 – First few games of the season it wasn’t quite working, seemed like he was making passes his teammates weren’t ready for, or he was expecting them to make runs that they didn’t. Eventually though it all synched up and with Marky Delgado keeping things simple, Vazquez got plenty of time on the ball and he used that very very well. Ran the show really, scored a few important goals as well, and scored the cup clincher with his cock which still amuses me.
MarkHSV: 1 – So many players had incredible seasons this year, but I can’t help but think that the difference maker from last year was the addition of Victor Vasquez. He has more combined regular season goals/assists (24) than Seba (22) and Jozy (21); as many game-winning goals as Jozy (5); most games played (31); 2 playoff goals, etc. His vision and ability to link up with the strikers was incredible. In a season where TFC had more wins and less losses than every other team, it’s very difficult to choose whether offensive or defensive stats are more important. TFC allowed 2 fewer goals this year, which suggests the defence and goalkeeping were pretty consistent to last year, however, they scored 23 more goals. What? That has to be the big difference this year, so in my opinion the catalyst for that, and TFC’s #1 player for 2017 is Victor Vasquez. Amazing.
WhaleyStatic: 2 – Please bring back the Queen clip.
(*Editor’s note: As you wish*)
Aron: 2 – Pros: sounds like an SCTV character in interviews, looks like your uncle, plays soccer really well. Cons: soft testicles. (*Editors note: possibly my favourite comment*)
Susan: 2 – VV is Very Very VV. Oh, and did you know he played for Barcelona?
TuffyRocks: 3 – I almost picked VV for the number one spot because without his silky passes the top 2 guys wouldn’t score as much.
Martyn: 2 – The light bulb over his teammates heads. Always a clever idea, and when illuminated, shows the quality that was already there.
Jen: 5 – Other people will have better comments than me.
JordyLike: 1 – Last year I wasn’t even sure what could be added to the team that would significantly improve them, then this man walks into my life/heart and was everything I needed. Fairly clinical finisher, to go along with his pinpoint distribution and creativity on the ball. TFC was the better team by far in a losing effort in last year’s final, yet I couldn’t imagine TFC this year without him.
YellingAtSoccer: 1 – It should be obvious why.
TweetKred: 2 – Created way more “holy shit did he just do that” moments this year than anyone. So much creativity packed into one player. Created goals out of nothing, slowed down play to release pressure, allowed Michael to stay home with the backline by being the outlet/link upfront and the shirt celebration. I’ve never purchased a numbered/named jersey until this year, VV7.
Mr. Tuktoyaktuk: 1 – Many smirked at his (over-emphasized by the club) La Masia credentials at first but quickly showed he was the real deal. His ball placement flummoxed defenders league wide, especially in the first half of the season.
Ruchesko: 1 – To the Victor go the spoils. Still staggered they rustled up something like this for 10% of a Bradley.
Mel: 3 – He was the missing piece- what we needed to push us across the finish line. When he wasn’t in the line up, it was noticeable.
Alex: 2 – Was the AM this team always needed , contributed almost in every department, helped us become championship calibre team.
Jeff: 2 – A player of this ability and class – an absolute joy to be able to watch him play. Honoured to have the chance to enjoy his vision, imagination and influence on the game.
ZicoZay: 4 – I was critical of his defensive work early on, but he integrated his game well with Bradley so he did manage to be relevant with both defensive play as well as his attacking vision.
Artur: 4 – VV – Extremely technical and skilled. He looked like he had eyes from up above knowing where to pass.
James: 3 – Advertized as the missing piece when he arrived, from Barcelona it should be mentioned, Vazquez quickly proved himself more than any could have imagined. TFC were missing the man who could pick his way through the muck of defensive obstruction, he was that and more. His game intelligence brought the entire side to a higher level. He made those around him better. In an attacking sense, he may have been the most important player of the season for a treble-winning side. Considering the performances of those around him that is saying a lot.