Victor Vazquez is just as happy to be with the LA Galaxy as he is to reunite with his head coach, Greg Vanney.
Victor Vazquez might have been tired of the travel, having left Toronto FC after the 2018 season to play in Qatar and then a short stint in Belgium. He certainly was weary of the inactivity — he made exactly one appearance for Belgian side KAS Eupen a year ago — and understandably was determined to get back on the field.
For those reasons it didn’t take long for Greg Vanney, Vazquez’s former coach in Toronto and who recently became the 12th head coach in Galaxy history, to convince his former standout to return to Major League Soccer.
Vazquez clearly was ready to go.
“Nice to be back,” the veteran midfielder told members of the media in a conference call Tuesday as the Galaxy prepared for Wednesday’s Tucson (Ariz.) Sun Cup match against the Colorado Rapids at Kino North Stadium. The game will be streamed live on lagalaxy.com at 3 p.m.
“For me it was pretty simple,” Vazquez said of his return to MLS. “I’m 34 and I’m looking for a big project. I’m not looking to keep playing football, and whatever you take it’s going to be fine. No. I was looking for something big, for something that really matters for me.
“When Greg told me he was moving from TFC to LA, I said to him if we can do that, it will be amazing for you and amazing for me because I want to be back in strong competition, a good league like MLS is.
“I’m really glad that I’m here,” he went on. “Always thankful to Greg and his staff and of course to (general manager) Dennis (te Kloese) and (technical director) Jovan (Kirovski). They gave me another opportunity. It’s not easy the last year and a half I didn’t play so much. But I’m the same player.”
Vazquez helped lead Toronto FC to the MLS Cup in 2017, a season in which he scored eight goals, added 16 assists and was a member of the MLS Best XI. Now he’s in Los Angeles, trying to restore the five-time MLS Cup champions to their former glory, and he’s thrilled with the opportunity.
He likely will get some playing time Wednesday, perhaps as many as 45 minutes, but anything would be an improvement from spending the last year and a half clearly missing the competition.
“The last year has been difficult for everyone, but of course for me a bit more,” he said. “In January of 2020 I was Qatar. I was fit. Then I went to Barcelona a couple of months on holiday, then I moved to Belgium in August. I was there for 2 1/2 months. Because of COVID (-19) and all the rules in Belgium it was difficult to play. I played in only one game.
“I am am fit. I miss the rhythm of the game.”
He also apparently missed Vanney.
“I always say Greg is an amazing coach,” Vazquez said. “For me, he’s more like a good friend. We had an amazing relationship in Toronto. We had many talks together about players, the team, everything.
“I’m not a player who just cares about playing, I care about other things. I like to be involved. I’m an experienced player, 34 years old. I can bring many good things.”
Vazquez, who vowed the Galaxy “will have a lot of fun, for sure,” said Vanney hasn’t changed much aside from a beard speckled with gray.
“He’s looking the same,” Vazquez said with a laugh. “I think he has the same ideas, he’s the same guy and for sure he’s real excited to bring the Galaxy where we have to be.
“He loves the club. He’s from here, he played for this club and he was really successful with the Galaxy in the past. I think all the players, the people around the club are so excited. The things we are building are on the right way and we’re so glad to be here.
“With the team they are building,” he said, “it’s going to be a great year for the Galaxy, for sure.”
Vanney said “everybody is on the mend” as the club continued preparation for the regular-season opener on Sunday, April 18 against Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Recent acquisition and central defender Derrick Williams, who has been recovering from hamstring surgery, trained full on Tuesday and could see some minutes against Colorado. Defender Oniel Fisher (hamstring) also has trained the past two days and might play some as well.
The same, however, could not be said for central defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, who is sidelined with a knee injury. He is running, Vanney said, but “he’s not ready to integrate into the group yet.” Vanney also denied rumors out of Costa Rica that Gonzalez would need surgery.
“Other than that,” Vanney continued, “everybody is good and we expect to move forward with them tomorrow (Wednesday) and the games coming up.”
Vanney shed little light on the ongoing saga involving Cristian Pavon, who is facing rape charges in Argentina. Formal charges were filed against him last November.
There have been rumors the Galaxy told Pavon’s club, Boca Juniors, they were backing away from any potential deal for his playing services — he was the Galaxy’s leading scorer last season with 10 goals and three assists — but Vanney didn’t have any new information.
“I don’t know what conversations have been had with Boca Juniors,” Vanney said. “For us, again the situation is not under our control specifically. We need to continue to move forward as a club. That doesn’t take him, Cristian, out of our prospects of people we can add at some point.
“Whether that’s shorter term or longer term, we’ll see where that goes. But we have to continue moving forward and have to prepare the team for the season. We’ll see how things continue to progress.”