Atlanta United’s Brandon Vazquez had an MLS debut to remember in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake at beautiful Rio Tinto Stadium.
The 18-year-old not only made his first 18, not only saw first minutes of action, but also scored his first goal in the game’s dying seconds to ensure that Atlanta United earned five points from its four consecutive road games.
“It was an incredible feeling making my debut in MLS,” Vazquez said. “It was such an amazing experience and something I’ll never forget.”
Vazquez didn’t learn that he was going to make the 18 until after the pre-game warmups. By then, he couldn’t message his parents in California to tell them that there was a chance he would make his debut.
Atlanta United Gerardo Martino said he included Vazquez in the 18 because he works hard in practice and is always looking to improve. During practice on Wednesday, he and Mark Bloom worked with the assistant coaches on attacking crosses.
It wasn’t a cross that led to Vazquez’s first goal, the first of what he said will be many. Instead, he ran onto a through pass down the right side from fellow rookie Julian Gressel. The Real Salt Lake defender who was shadowing Vazquez inexplicably quit running, leaving Vazquez with only needing to round the goalkeeper and shoot to secure the goal.
Vazquez hadn’t had a chance yet to check his phone after the game before he was interviewed. He only knew he had a few notifications.
It will be interesting to see how much Vazquez gets to play this season. The team has four true forwards: Josef Martinez, who is injured, Kenwyne Jones, who started, Vazquez and recent addition Bryan Rochez.
Vazquez offers skills that are a mix of Jones’ size and Martinez’s ability to split defenders. Vazquez was in Tijuana’s academy since 2012 before being acquired by Atlanta United in Dec. 2016. He has made several appearances for U.S. youth national teams.
“We are happy for him,” team captain Michael Parkhurst said. “He’s been working hard in training. It was nice to see he was composed right there and sealed the game for us.”
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