TFC's Vanney: Victor Vazquez the "most clever attacking midfielder" in MLS

TORONTO—Without the services of the injured Sebastian Giovinco and the suspended Jozy Altidore, head coach Greg Vanney joked at training that Toronto FC would need somebody to score the goals.

The high-powered duo accounted for six goals each, more than half of the 21 Toronto had scored prior to Friday's 5-0 dismantling of floundering Columbus Crew SC on Friday night at BMO Field.

Four different players stepped up on the night, including Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio, and Jordan Hamilton. But undoubtedly, Victor Vazquez had the most resounding impact with his crucial double, scoring from the spot in the 6th minute after having played the ball that sprung Tosaint Ricketts behind the Crew SC defense and then from a difficult dead-ball situation just before the hour-mark.

“For me he's the most clever attacking midfielder in this league by a long shot,” Vanney said. “I don't know if people across the board have recognized that, but he is.”

What makes him so special, in Vanney's eyes: “His brain; he's so aware. I'm a big believer that the game is played in your head before it's played out where everyone can see it. He's just two steps ahead.”

Alongside the numerous chances he created, that Vazquez coolly stepped up to slot home from twelve paces, given the difficulty TFC have had from the spot this season, was a welcome change of pace. 

In six earlier penalty kicks, Toronto was scoring at merely a 50-percent clip, with Giovinco missing one of two attempts; Altidore, two of four. 

With Vazquez confidently dispatching his into the bottom corner of the goal, to Zack Steffen's left having sent the keeper the other way, Toronto may have their man.

Vanney said that he decided prematch Victor would be the penalty taker: “[Ricketts] put the ball down like he was going to take it ... I have a little bit of a thing about the guy who gets fouled taking the PK. I don't really love that, because you're in the emotion of the moment, of getting brought down. I prefer it be somebody else if possible.”

“Victor and I have been talking for a while about him stepping up and finding one,” Vanney said. “So we switched it up and had Victor hit it ... and it worked out.”

When Vazquez stood over a foul won by Marky Delgado virtually on the intersection of the 18-yard box and the arc, it looked impossible that he would get it up-and-down -- over the wall, but under the bar. Vazquez had another idea.

“For me that free-kick was, again, him being a step ahead of everybody else,” Vanney said. “He's got a sense that the wall is going to jump, try to take away the ball over the wall, so he goes under. Another sign of him being just a little bit smarter than everybody else.”

Though with so many capable takers in the side, Vanney would not be drawn on whether Vazquez would be assigned the responsibility: “Maybe. It's possible.”

Vazquez's teammates, too, were full of praise.

“Yeah, it was a little cheeky,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono. “I always think that from that close it’s good to go back to the keepers side because they can’t really see the ball, don’t have time to react. There’s not many guys that can pull that off in the fashion that he did.”