TORONTO – Alejandro Pozuelo made quite the impression -- on fans, on the media, and on teammates -- as he introduced himself to MLS on Friday night at BMO Field
Having arrived just a week earlier from KRC Genk, Pozuelo made his debut in the premiere broadcast of "MLS Friday Night in TSN" and he did so in emphatic fashion for Toronto FC in a 4-0 win over NYCFC.
“It was alright,” deadpanned TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio post-match. “The guy is magic; you saw it today. It was a great debut. I can't wait to play the rest of the year with him.”
“He's a special player,” added Osorio. “Creates a lot, works hard, plays for the team.”
Glimpses of what the Spanish attacking midfielder could do were seen in the opening 25 minutes, where twice TFC goals were ruled offside, but come the 29th minute, he danced into the area deftly before squaring to Jozy Altidore.
Pozuelo then added the second from the penalty spot come the 58th minute with an audacious attempt, clipping a looping finish down the middle as Sean Johnson dived to his right. The audacity was compounded with the revelation that it was a promise to TFC president Bill Manning.
“Saturday I had dinner with the president and [he] said we need somebody to shoot penalties,” explained Pozuelo. “I came to [do that], so the first one I shoot I'll do the panenka. He said, 'You're crazy.' I said, 'No, I'll do [it].'”
“It's difficult to shoot a penalty like this,” admitted Pozuelo. “The first penalty the keeper will go will go right or left, it's impossible to stay in the middle, so I tried.”
His burgeoning partnership with Altidore looks full of promise.
“As good a debut as you can hope for,” said Altidore, who scored his second goal in as many games since returning from injury. “He had a lot of pressure coming in, seemed to have that calm from minute one. Some mistakes from the beginning, but his willingness to get on the ball, try things to unlock defenses is the sign of a quality player. He plays with a smile on his face.”
“It's easy to play with good players.” smiled Altidore. “Very talented, has a good smell for the game. It's going to be fun.”
As if that wasn't enough, with his last touch of the match in the 78th minute, Pozuelo struck again. It wasn't quite a chip, nor a scoop, it was somewhere in between: a smooth lob that sailed over Johnson in goal for TFC's third of the match.
“The chip was outrageous,” said Altidore, who was stunned in the moment. “It's one of those things you see from the bench, but you don't think he's really going to chip from there. The level of difficulty to score like that in your debut, that's 10 out of 10 from me, for balls and skill and technique. It was something to see.”
Pozuelo admitted it was a first for him: “The second goal, I've never scored like this.”
But it was the two-way play and the way he fit into the context of the team performance that pleased Toronto head coach Greg Vanney.
“The two goals were classy, confident,” said Vanney. “It was within the group. It wasn't overwhelming, in terms of trying to do too much, things flowed and came together in a nice way.”
Osorio saw flashes of a legend in Pozuelo's play.
“He reminds me of [Andres] Iniesta. The way he moves side-to-side, his quickness,” said Osorio. “The thing about Pozuelo: you don't know which foot he is, he's the same with both. That's a huge advantage. Defenders don't know which way he's going to go. That makes him even more dangerous.”
Confirmed Pozuelo, perhaps with a hint of mischief: “I'm right-footed.... Also, sometimes, with the left.”