TORONTO – Victor Vazquez was in the middle of a post-game interview when teammate Armando Cooper gleefully upended a bottle of beer over the Spaniard’s head.
Vazquez was Toronto FC’s key off-season acquisition last spring, the team’s missing piece after its loss to the Seattle Sounders in last year’s MLS Cup Final.
But the 30-year-old said he never dreamed his season would culminate in a celebratory, booze-drenched locker-room — the end of an historic season, and a 2-0 victory over Seattle in the Final.
“For sure no,” Vazquez said, after pausing to wipe the beer from his eyes. “Of course you want to come to a team that you can win everything, and that’s why I came here. And now we are celebrating the treble (Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record, and MLS Cup Final).
“I think it’s a huge thing that we did.”
Toronto acquired Vazquez last February to add creativity and offence to its midfield, and he’s lived up to his billing. Saturday, he contributed to Jozy Altidore’s goal and then added his own in stoppage time.
“Victor was all over the field tonight,” said teammate Drew Moor. “He just kept popping up in those areas where he had five or six yards and when you give him that much space on the ball and time, he’s going to pick out a good pass. He’s been a beast all season.”
Altidore’s goal in the 67th came after some pretty tic-tac-toe passing out of their own by Toronto. Vazquez passed to Sebastian Giovinco who passed to Altidore.
“We are close, Seba, Jozy and myself, we have the quality, then we can change the game in two seconds,” Vazquez said. “And we did it again . . . we show every game, we’re the best team in MLS.”
Vazquez squashed any final hope for the Sounders and their 2,000 travelling fans when he pounced on a rebound after a Cooper shot hit the goalpost.
“It was an easy goal,” Vazquez shrugged. “Seba and Armando did most of the action, Armando did an amazing one-two with Seba, hit the post and came back to me and I scored. And then the game was over.”
Vazquez took a circuitous route to Major League Soccer. He worked his way up the youth ranks of Barcelona alongside Lionel Messi before being sidelined by a couple of knee surgeries. He made his senior debut for Barcelona on April 12, 2008, and scored off the bench in a Champions League win over Rubin Kazan in his final Barca appearance on Dec. 7, 2010. But he made just four senior team appearances, and spent five seasons in the reserves.
His right forearm tattoo — it reads “The Strongest Survive” — is about that journey, he said.
“It means all (about) my past and my career. It was a hard moment for me when I get injured, and today it came, everything back to me,” said Vazquez — a teammate jokingly offered to translate the Spaniard’s English. “I have to be happy, the team that we have is amazing.”
Vazquez had 16 assists during the regular-season to finish second in MLS. He had eight goals in the regular season and three in the playoffs.
“I do my job. I try to help my teammates, I don’t play for myself,” Vazquez said. “I like to do always the best for my team, to give an assist, to try to score and to (leave on the field) everything that I have inside myself, for Toronto. I hope I can be here more years, because this made me so happy, to win these kinds of things here.”