TFC notebook: Vazquez ruled out for rest of MLS season

Victor-Vazquez

Former Toronto FC midfielder Victor Vazquez, who just signed with the LA Galaxy. (Chris Young/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training on Monday ahead of a busy week in which it will play two road games in a five-day period.

Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.

VAZQUEZ BEING SHUT DOWN

TFC confirmed that midfielder Victor Vazquez is being shut down for the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last Friday. He faces a recovery time of six to eight weeks.

With Toronto already eliminated from playoff contention and the regular season almost over, the Spaniard will only miss three matches. Vazquez is expected to make a full recovery and won’t miss any of the team’s 2019 pre-season campaign after undergoing what coach Greg Vanney described as a “pretty basic” procedure.

“He feels great, he’s moving around well. It’s nothing that’s long-term. [We wanted] to get it done and get him on the right side of feeling better so he can prepare for next year,” Vanney explained.

Vanney later added: “There was no sense at this point to continue pushing him on it. We knew he was going to have [it done], so it was a simple procedure and quick. We just managed to get it done now, instead of having to wait and then cutting into the off-season.”

Vanney explained Vazquez will remain with the team and undergo rehab, before likely returning to Spain for the off-season.

Vazquez, 31, was a key member of Toronto’s treble-winning side in 2017, his first campaign in MLS.

The influential midfielder scored 10 goals and tallied 17 assists in 36 appearances during the regular season and playoffs, and he scored TFC’s 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final last December. He was also named to the MLS Best XI, the league’s end-of-season all-star team.

A series of injuries sidelined Vazquez for significant portions of 2018, limiting him to just 21 games – although he still scored a respectable eight goals and added nine assists.

HELPING OUT MONTREAL

With a 12-11-8 record, D.C. United currently holds down the sixth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. D.C. enjoys just a one-point advantage over seventh-place Montreal, but it does have a game in hand on the Impact.

Toronto is in the unusual position of being able to help the Impact by earning a win over D.C on Wednesday, and then turning around and potentially hurting Montreal’s playoff chances when they visit Stade Saputo on Sunday.

Wednesday’s match is TFC’s first since suffering a 2-1 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Oct. 6, a result that officially eliminated the Reds from playoff contention.

“The way this went down, unfortunately, by us not getting a result [against Vancouver], it would’ve been an interesting stretch here with the three of us playing each other. Now we’re in this [role] where we can change the picture for D.C. and Montreal. That’s in and of itself a good reason to go out and play and compete, and be the best version of us,” Vanney stated.

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES

Toronto could be missing several starters for the D.C. game due to international duty.

Canada plays Dominica in a Concacaf Nations League qualifier on Tuesday night at BMO Field. TFC defender Ashtone Morgan, midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Jay Chapman, and forward Tosaint Ricketts have been training with the national team since last week, and all of them potentially could play against Dominica.

Captain Michael Bradley and fellow midfielder Marky Delgado are on international duty with the U.S. national team, who meets Peru in an international friendly Tuesday night in Hartford. Also, Sebastian Giovinco was recently away with the Italian national team. He didn’t see any action in a 1-1 draw against Ukraine last Wednesday, or in Italy’s 1-0 win over Poland in the UEFA Nations League.

Vanney confirmed that Giovinco will meet up with TFC in D.C., at which point he will evaluate whether the Italian can play on Wednesday. Vanney also explained that the Canadian and American players away on international duty could also make the trip to D.C., depending on how much they play for their national teams on Tuesday night.

“I’ll find out later today what the plan is for most of them – who’s going to be starting, who’s going to be playing, [how many minutes they’ll play], and then from there we’ll have a better sense of where we’re at,” Vanney confirmed.

INJURY UPDATES

Drew Moor has missed the last four MLS games with a minor calf strain. But the veteran defender is back in full training, and said he is available to play on Wednesday.

“I feel good. I feel as good as I’ve felt in a long time. I’m excited to maybe get the opportunity; I know I’m definitely fit to play soon. We’ll see how it goes,” Moor said.

Look for my feature story on Drew Moor on Tuesday on Sportsnet.ca.

LOOKING AHEAD TO D.C.

D.C. sports one of the best home records (11-2-2) in MLS this season, and is one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment. D.C. is unbeaten in seven games (five wins and two draws), and has earned three consecutive victories.

Since the start of July, D.C. has played 18 games, winning 10 of them, with only four losses – this after winning just twice in their first 14 games of the season.

Why the turnaround? Most of Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta’s nine goals and 16 assists (second-best in MLS) have come since the first week of July. Also, the mid-season addition of former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney has given D.C. a big boost – he has nine goals and seven assists since making his MLS debut on July 14.

“He’s provided a group that has been relatively young and hard-working and honest and competitive, and given them leadership on the field, probably a little more purpose and belief on the field with what he’s capable of doing. His involvement has been a massive transformation for Acosta since arriving,” Vanney offered.

It also helped D.C.’s cause that 13 of its 18 games since July 4 have been played at home. All but two of its first 13 matches of the campaign were on the road due to the construction of Audi Field, its new stadium which opened on the same day as Rooney’s debut.

This is the second meeting of the year between TFC and D.C. They played to a 4-4 draw at BMO Field on June 13.

Last season, Toronto earned a 2-0 home win over D.C., and the teams played to a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium, D.C.’s previous home before moving into Audi Field.

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