USMNT must get on the Brandon Vazquez train

Brandon Vazquez

Brandon Vazquez
Photo: Getty Images

Yes I know. We do this every few months. Actually have our whole lives, except maybe that brief Jozy Altidore interlude… until he dropped his hammy in Brazil. And we will continue to do this every few months for the rest of our lives, pinning our hopes on a true No. 9 for the USMNT on yet another candidate in rotation forever. It’s our burden, it’s our curse, at least until we find out that Erling Haaland’s grandfather actually took a US passport from someone instead of literally being Thor as he probably was.

Even on these pages (technically, they are pages!), I have the virtues of… Ricardo Pepic or Daryl Dijk or Jordan Pefok. I haven’t quite gotten to Jesus Feirrera yet, who clearly belongs to Gregg Berhalter (I told him at the league office that I don’t roll on Saturday), and who has the shirt for now and will almost certainly start in the opener vs. Wales in November. Barring any injuries or unforeseen circumstances.

Today I’m here to tell you that one of those very unforeseen circumstances would have to be Brandon Vazquez.

If you don’t know, Vazquez is the FC Cincinnati striker, arguably the surprise team in the MLS this season. Cincy had held the wooden spoon of the competition all her life for the first three seasons. They’ve climbed to sixth place in the Eastern Conference this season, mostly on the back of Vazquez (and also playmaker Luciano Acosta, but he’s Argentinian so no answer to our national team’s prayers. Nice guy, but I know secure) .

Vazquez has scored 14 goals in 23 appearances this season, the second most in the league. He did so without taking penalties, which has helped him lead the league in non-penalty expected goals at 11.3.

Need visual aids?

HIGHLIGHTS: FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union | 06 August 2022

What you notice about Vazquez is that although the finish itself is relatively simple, it is always in the right place. This kind of movement and instinct doesn’t just happen, and to have it at just 23 portends a very bright future. Vazquez is also a damn house, listed at 1.80 meters2, 185 (and could fill in more), and is very mobile. He simply has a sixth sense for timing and finding space, which means he is constantly close to the goal with the ball at his feet and with time to finish. As they say, you can’t learn that.

And Vazquez’s numbers are not a one-season explosion that will return to average next season. From last year to this year, Vazquez’s number of shots per 90 has increased from 2.84 to 2.94. His shots on target per 90 have increased from 1.16 to 1.36. His shot-on-target percentage has gone from 40 percent to 46. His shot percentage from 15 to 22 percent. Even if there’s something that looks like a pretty big jump, it’s easily explained by going from 22 to 23 and joining a much more competent side that FC Cincinnati has become full-time.

And unlike his competition for that spot on the national team, he hasn’t gotten as cold as Ferreira. Vazquez has played no more than three games without scoring this season, save for one goalless three-game streak, which he then backed up with the six-in-six streak he is currently on. Ferreira started the season with fire, with five goals in his first six games, but they were bundled in just two of those games. Ferreira has scored two goals in his last seven games, three in his last 14, and it’s not because of a lack of opportunities, as he has scored 16 goals in that time.

And that’s the problem with Ferreira. He’s not much of a natural striker, more in the false nine role he’s been given as a midfielder, and though he’s better equipped to link up with the wide attackers and midfield in the US’s 4-3-3 formation The fear has always been that in a World Cup game, where the odds are high and the ball is at his feet in one of the few looks he will get, he just doesn’t have that ruthlessness. Vazquez is much more of a battering ram, who wants to get behind a defense rather than fall from it, but he can be a horse for a certain course. Tell England, when the US probably won’t have as much of the ball, Vazquez on the counter is a bigger threat than Ferreira. He’s also another option in games against Wales and Iran, where the US seems to have the ball more, if only off the bench, and the US may need to get a little cross-heavy or just need someone to help central defenders. to occupy. Vazquez is just better in the penalty area than Ferreira, he made more contact there, got more passes there and finished better when he had the chance.

On the defensive side, Vazquez is just as willing to squeeze as Ferreira, with the former pushing 9.2 in the offensive third every 90 minutes and the latter 10.8.

The US has only two friendlies left before Berhalter has to announce the roster. With the move to a 26-man squad instead of 23, it’s hard to believe that Vazquez won’t at least be on the plane. But he needs to take a look at one, if not both, matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia, which he hasn’t gotten yet. Of course, Pefok could continue to score for Union Berlin as he did this weekend, but Berhalter seems to have given up on him. Pepi can score another goal…maybe. Maybe we should just settle for him first for Augsburg.

There is also the small problem of keeping Vazquez away of the Mexico national team. Berhalter said “he’s close” when he failed to bring him in for the June games for the national team, but that could mean just that or it could be something of a brush-off. But at the moment there is no other option than Ferreira. He’s big, he’s fast, he scores and he’s only getting better.

It’s time to believe in Brandon Vazquez. Honestly, what have we got to lose?

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