FC Cincinnati striker Brandon Vazquez is fully aware that his window to enter the US men’s national team’s Qatar 2022 World Cup plans is narrowing.
But the 23-year-old is left encouraged by his chances long-term, referencing a conversation with USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter during an interview with Extratime.
“I spoke to Gregg a couple weeks ago,” Vazquez said. “He said he likes my movement in the box, and (he said) to keep scoring, to keep this momentum up and that anything could happen. It's a World Cup year, so I know it's harder to make it into a squad that's already been working for years together for this tournament. But anything could happen.”
Berhalter is keeping tabs on Vazquez as well, noting “he’s close” when discussing the June window’s roster three weeks ago. And it’s all sparked by some fantastic MLS form, with his seven goals and three assists across 13 games lifting Cincinnati’s surprise early-season rise to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Nobody has pulled ahead in the USMNT’s striker battle either, with Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) and Haji Wright (Turkey’s Antalyaspor) the only two specified options called into the ongoing June camp. Wright is one of Vazquez’s several former U.S. youth national teammates in the mix, as they were both forwards at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup alongside stars like Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams.
“All these guys, it's a small soccer world, and seeing them succeeding, I want to be there with them so bad,” Vazquez said. “I have been next to them before.”
Brandon Vazquez on mental strength, goals, and pancakes
As USMNT buzz around Vazquez builds, it’s no guarantee that he’d suit up for the Yanks. He’s also eligible for Mexico and is keeping options open should El Tri boss Tata Martino – his former Atlanta United head coach – show interest.
“I haven't made a decision,” Vazquez said. “I'm still eligible for Mexico. Doors are open for both, I guess. I have to make that decision when we cross that bridge.”
To reach this stage, Vazquez credits finding a new level in Cincinnati after learning and developing under Josef Martinez, calling the 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP “just a killer in the box.” Vazquez spent 2017-19 at ATLUTD in a reserve role before achieving a slow and steady climb at Cincy, which didn’t necessarily come right away. The club’s three straight bottom-of-the-league finishes proved challenging, too.
“The first two years here at Cincinnati, 2020 and 2021, they were hard, coming from a team that had been winning a lot to a team that was struggling to get wins,” Vazquez said. “It was definitely frustrating and I felt like I was in the same position I was in at Atlanta where I was getting minutes at the end of every game. It was really frustrating, but on the inside, I knew I had to work for myself and I had to prepare myself for when I was going to get an opportunity.”
Now, he’s proof positive of the idea that development is seldom linear. And he knows how much runway remains.
“Years and years and years of just putting in that extra work, it's paying off for sure and it feels so, so good,” Vazquez said. “I'm still so hungry for it and like I haven't proven anything. I just want to go out and keep doing what I've been doing. I just want more, I'm hungry for it.”
For more MLS analysis, check out the full Extratime episode here.