Victor Vazquez's quick thinking sets stage for Toronto FC rout vs. Galaxy

CARSON, Calif.—Catching teams off guard is never easy, but that’s exactly what Toronto FC did to the LA Galaxy halfway through the first half on Saturday.

After winning a free kick outside the Galaxy's 18-yard box, Victor Vazquez stood behind the ball for TFC and told referee Kevin Stott he didn’t need the 10 yards marked off for the opposing team, something that is customary but not required. Without the formal stoppage, Vazquez was free to take the set piece when he wanted to, not needing to wait for a whistle from Stott. As the majority of players turned their backs to get in position, Vazquez sent the ball hurtling toward the far corner.

It didn’t go in, but the rebound off the crossbar dropped to Drew Moor, who headed it past Galaxy goalkeeper Jon Kempin for the opening goal. It was the beginning of a 4-0 Toronto rout of the Galaxy, but it was just a smart, spontaneous play.

"It's spur of the moment,” said TFC head coach Greg Vanney, when asked if a quick free-kick routine was something they’ve worked on in practice. “It's a recognition of a situation and being able to take advantage of that situation. It's not really something that you can plan for, but you want guys to be aware of it if it shows up."

The situation has shown up before a handful of times for TFC. That’s why Kempin said he wasn’t all that surprised that Vazquez went for the quick kick on goal, though it did catch him off guard.

“We talked about that before the game,” Kempin said, “The film we watched you see all the time -- I didn’t see any from Vazquez -- but you see from Michael Bradley they put the ball down, guys are turning their backs, and then he quickly plays the ball over the top. We knew that they were going to do that.”

The game turned after that opening goal, as the Galaxy would let in a second to Tosaint Ricketts -- his first of two on the day -- shortly after. TFC found plenty of space to operate, some of which Vanney credited to the quick free-kick goal, although he also admitted Toronto were rampant in their performance.

“I think some of the things that occurred still occur,” Vanney said. “I still think we expose some of those spaces, I still think we can move them around. Having said that to get on top, to get the first goal changes the mentality of the opposition all the time. They feel like they need to extend themselves a little bit defensively and that's where some of those spaces came that we can use against them."

Vanney also praised Vazquez, who took over the full playmaker reins in Sebastian Giovinco's absence.

“Vazquez, I've said it over and over again: He's one of the smartest players in the league, no doubt, and he understands so many things about the game that give our team a little bit of an edge," he said.