Despite dominating possession and passing statistics through the first hour of Saturday night’s match, Atlanta United still found themselves scoreless against a resilient Colorado Rapids defense. With his team in need of a goal, it was telling who Head Coach Tata Martino turned to for an offensive spark: 18-year-old Brandon Vazquez.
“Brandon has come on a few times now in that right wing position and we have noticed that he is growing,” Martino said through a translator after the game. “It is evident to us that he is learning new things every game, and is growing into that position.”
Coach Martino’s trust in his youth paid off, with Vazquez’s contribution almost instant. Less than three minutes after coming on the field, he received a ball on the end line from Jeff Larentowicz, cut back inside and fed Josef Martinez in front of goal for his first-ever MLS assist, and making a crucial contribution to the decisive game-winner.
Most rookies would feel the weight of the moment with the ball at their feet with the game on the line. But Vazquez says he’s found himself in that position countless times in training and was ready and poised for the moment.
“I’m kind-of used to those plays,” Vazquez told reporters after the match. “Throughout your career, you get a lot of those so I guess now it comes a lot more naturally. I [thought about scoring] at first but I had no angle so I was looking for the best option and Josef was there and he took care of the rest.”
Whether Vazquez pushes himself into the starting lineup or not, it’s essential to have players throughout the roster who are able to contribute as the matches pile up during the grueling MLS summer. League veteran Jeff Larentowicz emphasized the importance of depth after the game.
“Obviously, for the remainder of the year we’re going to call on everybody,” Larentowicz said. “So it’s going to have to be every single guy on the roster -- as you’ve seen tonight with more guys getting on the field and helping out.”
Either way, Vazquez is ready to contribute however he can, either as a starter or in a more supporting role.
“I’m getting used to coming in at the last minute supporting the players that have been there since the start. I feel coming in with fresh legs is a lot of help for them. I think my role is that.”
Vazquez could have more chances to shine with three matches coming up in less than a seven days in another loaded week of fixtures for Atlanta United. The team travels to South Florida for a U.S. Open Cup match against NASL Spring Season champions Miami FC on Wednesday, before heading to Columbus to face the Crew in a league match this Saturday.
Atlanta United will be back at Bobby Dodd Stadium next week to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday in an Independence Day match under the lights. Sport your secondary kits, wear your patriotic attire, come watch some soccer and enjoy some post-match fireworks for a memorable night in Atlanta. Make sure to reserve your spot with a ticket before they sell out here.