Brandon Vazquez has longstanding ties to Liga MX powerhouse Chivas. Both of his parents are from Guadalajara and his first jersey was a Chivas one.
But when Sergio Santos had to pull out due to an injury in warm-ups, Vazquez was called into action. And boy did he deliver, scoring a hat trick to help lift FC Cincinnati to a 3-1 win in a match that was completed Friday afternoon after extreme weather forced the Thursday night fixture to get postponed in the 60th minute.
"Not difficult," Noonan said postgame of Vazquez's substitute heroics. "I mean, you look at his performance: On top of the hat trick, just the way he started the game. The way he finished off those plays, his movement – it was one of his strongest games.
"So for him to be able to switch gears on short notice and perform like that, it speaks to Brandon's character and being ready. He was outstanding."
When Chivas came calling for the young Mexican-American striker, FC Cincinnati turned down the reported $7 million bid following a breakout 2022 season which saw him post 18 goals and dish out eight assists in 33 games.
And despite Vazquez saying “Mexico is in my blood,” he chose the US men’s national team over El Tri, scoring on his debut in an international friendly against Serbia, followed by an additional three tallies at this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup. That storyline added to what amounted to a statement performance for the 24-year-old, who gave the current Liga MX leaders a glimpse of what they might've missed by not securing his services.
The weather postponement made for a strange finish to the match, which had been stopped on Thursday evening with the final half-hour still left to play. Ten-man Chivas managed to capitalize on the scenario immediately upon the restart, halving a 2-0 deficit with a headed finish from Antonio Briseño on the long throw-in that got the match back underway.
While the instant concession was agitating, Noonan said he was pleased with how his team responded. The Supporters' Shield leaders reclaimed control of the tempo following the goal, then put the match to bed when Vazquez completed the hat trick with his 73rd-minute sliding finish off an assist from Álvaro Barreal.
"You take knocks in a game and the next day is typically a recovery, assess, see where guys are at," Noonan explained. "So to ask for both teams guys to come back out and compete when it's 95 degrees or whatever it was out on the field, that's difficult. So a lot of this morning's conversations just revolved around let's see how everybody comes in and if we need to make any adjustments.
"...Really the concern is just the health of the players, the well-being of the players so you can get through it without injury. So on top of all those challenges the players faced, I thought they came out and for 30 minutes, albeit up a goal, did some really good things."
The emphatic result clinched FC Cincinnati's status as Central 3 group winners as they advanced to the knockout round of the competition. Now the focus turns to making a push for the grand prize in the first year of the expanded tournament as Noonan's group looks to add to what has already been a special season in league play, where Cincinnati are Shield frontrunners and playing at a 2.2 points per game pace (15W-2L-6D, 51 points).
"I think it was one of our strongest performances, so we accomplished our goal of being at the top of the group and getting another game here at TQL, so we're very pleased with that," Noonan said.