Brandon Vazquez continued to be Atlanta United’s U.S. Open Cup hero with two goals in Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Columbus on Tuesday at MAPFRE Stadium.
The goals in the fifth and 65th minutes were the third and fourth goals Vazquez has scored in the tournament, moving him into a tie for the Golden Boot as the competition’s leading scorer.
“After two goals in the past two games, I feel good about myself but like I said the work doesn’t end here,” he said. “More games to look forward too. I need to produce more. That’s my job. I’m working hard for the team.”
The goals were also Vazquez’s fifth and sixth in the competition for Atlanta United in the past three seasons. He scored two in the quarterfinal win against Charleston last week, one against Charleston in 2017 and another against Miami in the next round in 2017.
Vazquez’s two goals on Tuesday were one-man efforts, according to captain Michael Parkhurst.
On the first, Vazquez said he sensed that Columbus centerback David Guzman was going to take a poor first touch. Guzman did. Vazquez pounced on the loose ball, put it between Guzman’s legs and then coolly beat goalkeeper Jon Kempin to the lower right right corner for a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal comes off pure hard work,” Parkhurst said. “Closing guys down, winning the ball and composure in front of the net.”
Vazquez’s intuition was sharp again later in the half when he intercepted a poor back pass to Kempin. Vazquez’s shot from close to the end line bounced off the back post.
“He was clever to see that someone was trying to pass it back and get in between them,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said.
But, Vazquez got his redemption in the 65th minute when he chase down a long pass from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. As centerback Alex Crognale attempted to close him down, Vazquez faked as if he was going to turn up field. Instead, he turned the opposite way toward the end line and then back toward goal. He saw Ezequiel Barco sprinting toward the back post. Vazquez attempted to hit a cross toward Barco. Instead, he curled the ball into the goal to give Atlanta United a 3-1 lead.
“It’s good when you know that when Josef (Martinez) isn’t here you can replace him quite well,” de Boer said.
Vazquez may get another chance to add to this total when Atlanta United hosts the quarterfinal on July 10 at Kennesaw. The Five Stripes will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Cincinnati and St. Louis.
This season has been challenging for Vazquez. He was sidelined for two months with knee injury suffered during training. Even when healthy, Vazquez has Josef Martinez and Romario Williams ahead of him on the depth chart at striker.
Now, his work and patience are paying off.
“Our focus is on the next game now and the grind continues,” Vazquez said.
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