TORONTO – The waiting is the hardest part.
On Wednesday night, TFC will take to the pitch at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara against Chivas de Guadalajara (9:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada | UniMás, UDN, go90.com in US) for the second leg of the tournament's final, trailing 2-1 after a home defeat last week.
And one of the most pressing questions is whether Vazquez will be fit enough to rejoin the side as they look to overturn that first-leg deficit. Such are the vagaries of a nerve issue.
“It's in the back, but the sensations are down the leg and into foot. He also has some feeling in the hips,” TFC head coach Greg Vanney said on Thursday. “It was hard initially to pinpoint what it was until we were able to do various MRIs, see some specialists, and find out exactly where the issue was. Once we did, we had a better sense of what the timeline was going to be.
“It's one of those things that doesn't necessarily get worse, but until the nerve calms down enough he's going to have certain sensations,” Vanney continued. “Some of those are starting to go away. We're getting close. The window we were given was six-to-eight weeks, we're slightly over six now. We're hoping the progress can be significant; that he can play a role.”
Vazquez, who spent time with Cruz Azul before coming to MLS, has largely been forced to sit out his return to the Mexican limelight.
He missed the first leg against Chivas, both legs against Club America, and was limited to a substitute's role in both matches against Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals, coming on in the final 15 minutes of each.
In fact, he hasn't played a full 90 since February 27 – the second leg against the Colorado Rapids in the Round of 16 – having come off in the 53rd minute against Columbus Crew SC in the season opener at the beginning of March.
With no surgical fix, Toronto and Vazquez have been forced to wait.
“It's rest,” said Vanney, pointing to the beating the back and joints take from an early-season grind in a variety of conditions and on different surfaces. “For him, it ended up in nerve issue.
“It's not to say he's immobile; he can move. The problem is the foot goes numb after a certain amount of repetitions. Those are things you can't play through.”
The good news for Toronto fans is that the latest updates on Monday out of Guadalajara have Vazquez in training, trending in the right direction.
When Vazquez scored the second goal in Toronto's 2017 MLS Cup victory, he held his jersey aloft, proclaiming himself back for all those who doubted him after his struggles in Liga MX. But this chance to reveal his true self in person has been hampered by injury.
“He's been frustrated, extremely frustrated,” Vanney said. “He's happier now because he knows he's getting closer, able to do more things. But as the team has been going through these big matches, he's been unable to play a role.”
“They give you an incredible amount of work,” Vanney said. “In some of these games, especially [when] conditions aren't perfect, some good old fashioned running, young legs, working through the mud, hasn't been the worst thing for us.
“Those guys have been great. It's just different. They're guys with different skill sets and Victor gives us a different [one].”