Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez impresses Atlanta United, his former team

CINCINNATI — After Atlanta United faced Brandon Vazquez twice this MLS season, Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda and players Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon said Vazquez should be called into either the U.S. men’s national team or Mexico’s.

Vazquez, who made 32 appearances for Atlanta United from 2017-19, scored Cincinnati’s first goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Atlanta United at TQL Stadium. He took just two shots but commanded the attention of the team’s defenders throughout the game.

ExploreAtlanta United’s Josef Martinez has manager Pineda’s confidence

“He’s huge, he’s big, he’s fast,” Gutman said.

Vazquez has 15 goals this season and pushed his way into conversations that either the U.S. or Mexico should call him into their national teams. Both teams need a proven striker with the World Cup starting in November in Qatar.

“I think Mexico probably needs him more because he’s in good form,” Pineda said. “He’s just very good. I remember I had him in Olympic camp with the youth 23s. And he wasn’t playing that much. And I remember I came back to Seattle and said, ‘Hey, that kid looks good. I don’t know why he’s not playing that much.’”

Vazquez, signed by Atlanta United from Tijuana in December 2016, didn’t play a lot for the Five Stripes for two reasons: Josef Martinez was scoring, and Gerardo Martino, the team’s manager then, wasn’t keen on playing inexperienced players. Vazquez scored three goals in regular-season games but dragged Atlanta United through the U.S. Open Cup in 2019. He remains the team’s leading scorer in its U.S. Open Cup history with six goals.

Vazquez was left exposed in the 2020 expansion draft. He was selected by Nashville and traded to Cincinnati. He scored six goals in 50 appearances. The club also went through several managers.

In came Pat Noonan, who committed to playing Vazquez. He has put 30 shots on goal. Fifteen have gone in. He is second in the league in goals scored.

Gutman, who played for Cincinnati in 2020, said Vazquez has matured as a player since then. After starting on the left side of Cincinnati’s formation Saturday, Vazquez moved to the right to challenge Gutman, who was making his second appearance this season as a centerback.

“I could never really figure out where he was,” Gutman said. “So much smarter, so much quicker, so much ... he just looks fitter. And he looks like a proper striker. And I think, you know, the sky’s the limit for him at this point.”

An analytics scout for the U.S. men’s national team attended Saturday’s game, according to Pat Brennan of Cincinnati.com.

“I think the season that he’s had, and being an MLS All-Star, I think he can be in contention,” Lennon said. “There’s no reason why not. He’s continued to score goals for his club team and produce, so, yeah, I’m sure the national team has an eye on him.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

Aug. 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

Aug. 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE