It must have seemed like old times for the LA Galaxy’s Victor Vazquez last Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The 34-year-old veteran midfielder, preparing for Sunday’s home opener against the New York Red Bulls at Dignity Health Sports Park (2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), was back making his first start in a regular-season Major League Soccer game in more than two years, back in a league he grew to love during his two previous seasons with Toronto FC (2017-2018) and back helping orchestrate the Galaxy’s thrilling, come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Inter Miami CF.
He exhibited many of the same skills that led Toronto to a historic triple (MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield and Canadian Championship) in 2017 and sparked the Galaxy to a season-opening win on the road for the first time since 2011.
Vazquez, who signed with the Galaxy in January as a free agent after two uneventful years in Qatar and Belgium, said he was thrilled to be back.
“I think I missed (everything),” he said when asked what he missed about MLS. “When I moved to Qatar I thought it was going to be more or less like MLS. When I arrived there and started to know the league, the players, I really missed my time in MLS and of course in Toronto.
“I was so happy in Toronto. I had everything. The first year we won the treble … unbelievable season for us. The second season in Toronto was not that good because when you win everything it’s difficult to do it again. I missed many things. I love to play here.
“It’s growing so, so much, MLS, the people really don’t know. They think that we are coming here to retire, and this is not true.”
Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney, who coached Vazquez in Toronto, said the veteran’s skill set hasn’t diminished in the least despite his time away from MLS.
“I think he looks like the same Victor,” Vanney said. “The thing about Victor is he plays the game in his mind and his head before anybody else on the field is figuring out what’s going on. The capacity to just manipulate and find little spaces on the field so that when he can face forward and note solutions and all that kind of stuff, that’s irrelevant to his legs or anything else.
“He’s just playing the game at a different level in terms of in his head and speed-wise in his mind. It’s nice to see that back there again. His ability to organize the game and find space and put himself in places to see passes that most guys don’t see is special for him, and I saw that the other night.”
Vazquez, who has been with the Galaxy for less than a month, said he already likes what he sees on a team trying to recover from a 2020 season in which it tied for 10th in the Western Conference.
“We have a lot of good things to come,” he said. “I always say with Greg and the people around here we’re going to have a lot of fun. We have a very healthy atmosphere, and that’s very important for our club.
“For the players, for the club, for Greg and the staff and club, it’s very important to get the win away, also for the new players who are not used to playing together. We have to know each other better. It was a great game. We have to be proud of what we did in Miami.”
Defender Oniel Fisher, another free-agent acquisition during the off-season, said he always wanted to play for the Galaxy. He just didn’t realize it would take so much time.
The 30-year-old, originally a second-round selection by Seattle in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, was released by D.C. United last November and called his joining the Galaxy “a long process.” It started around mid-December and involved a change in agents/agencies before an agreement was worked out in February.
But he couldn’t be happier.
“I always wanted to play for the Galaxy,” who started in place of the suspended Julian Araujo against Inter Miami. “That kind of made it easier for me to give the go-ahead.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and it’s just another (place) to showcase my talent and what I can do.”
Vanney said he was a welcome addition to a retooled defense.
“He’s a veteran of this league who knows and understands what playing in MLS is about,” he said. “He’s a veteran, kind of savvy defender. He’s two-footed, so he can play on the left or right. There’s something there that’s efficient about what he does.
“The best quality he has for us is he’s a great personality in our team and locker room. He’s confident and just knows the league, and you need those experienced guys who have played a lot of games in this league. They can play roles throughout the season, and he’ll do that for us as well.”
Vanney repeatedly has told his players to “not be afraid to fail going for greatness,” much like the positive reinforcement emphasized by fictional coach Ted Lasso, the main character of Apple TV’s surprising hit that returns for a second season on July 23. Vanney, however, admitted he has yet to see any episodes of the show. “I haven’t seen Ted Lasso yet,” he sheepishly told reporters Wednesday, “but I was told to watch it.” …
Kevin Cabral, the former Valenciennes FC winger who recently signed a five-year contract, is expected to join the team sometime early next week and likely will be available for the Saturday, May 8 game against LAFC at Dignity Health Sports Park. “He has an appointment to get the visa stuff done, and hopefully we can get him turned around and get him here,” Vanney said. “From there we’ll see where he’s at. Obviously, he has to go throughout the quarantine process, whatever that looks like, and then we’ll have him ready to go when he’s physically ready and when we get through all the hoops we have to get through.”
Fisher said he’s already been impressed with Araujo, the 19-year-old from Lompoc who is beginning his third season “Julian already has the tools,” said Fisher, a Jamaican international who is in his seventh season. “Just try and get better each day, spend time learning the game. As long as he works on what he does best I think that will help him even more. He’s a bright spark and can really go far in his career. I’m excited to see his future, I love how he plays.”