Brandon Vazquez on hitting form with FC Cincinnati & USMNT ambitions

Chris Smith
Vazquez has been in red-hot form over the past few months.
Vazquez has been in red-hot form over the past few months. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Exclusive - After so long as the backup guy, Brandon Vazquez is taking Major League Soccer by storm in 2022.

Now 23 years old, the California-born striker has scored five goals and assisted another in six appearances to start the new season, helping FC Cincinnati to six points so far.

That already exceeds his best-ever MLS return but you can hardly blame Vazquez for that output. Across his short career so far, he's found himself stuck behind none other than Josef Martinez during his Atlanta United days, while he arrived in Cincinnati at the same time as Brazilian striker Brenner - fourth on MLS's list of all-time most expensive transfers.

But Vazquez has never lost sight of his goals or his ability as a player.

"Most of last season, I was getting a couple of minutes here and there at the end of the games, and it was very frustrating. I knew what I could bring to the team," Vazquez told 90min in an exclusive interview.

"At training every day, I would be the guy who was staying extra time, putting in the extra work, and doing all the finishing that I needed to do, watching video, doing all this stuff. And towards the end of that season, I finally got an opportunity."

The opportunity Vazquez talks about is starting in each of Cincinnati's last five matches of the 2021 MLS regular season. During that time, he scored three goals and added an assist, taking his total to 10 direct goal involvements across his last 11 appearances over both seasons combined.

"I think I put good use out of the opportunity, and this season, I came in with the same mentality," Vazquez continued. "Like the offseason, working really hard and preparing for this season. I'm happy. I'm happy I started off with a good amount of goals, and I plan on continuing the season this way and just adding them up."

Vazquez highlights Cincinnati assistant Dominic Kinnear as a key figure behind his prolific start to the season. Though a defender during his playing days - capped 54 times for the United States - Kinnear is one of the most experienced figures in American soccer having coached the likes of San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, and LA Galaxy.

"Dom has been working with me day in, day out," Vazquez said of Kinnear. "He's been staying with me, working on all the extra stuff. He's somebody that I like having on my corner of the ring. And we do individual videos as well, seeing previous games, and seeing what I can improve on, and what I do good. And it's been great to have him to consult with, and to help me improve on my game."

Kinnear arrived at TQL Stadium this offseason alongside new head coach Pat Noonan, who joined after serving as Jim Curtin's assistant at the Philadelphia Union.

Noonan has deployed the same diamoind formation that brought him so much success with the Union and rather than a team focused on damage limitation, FC Cincinati are now going after the opposition.

With a more offensive style and a strike partnership - often alongside Dom Badji - it's little wonder Vazquez is thriving. The forward says the whole mood around the club has lifted under Noonan and his staff.

"The whole team feels supported by this coaching staff, and the whole team is in of the belief that we are a good group of players. We're an amazing group of players," Vazquez said. "You see the quality of our team every day in training. And the whole team has bought into that.

"We could be an extraordinary team, and we can have an extraordinary season compared to the last couple seasons, where there's been a lot of negativity and feelings playing. And it ended up getting to a more negative state sometimes.

"This season, there's been none of that. So it's been a complete 180 change and everybody feels it, everybody's really excited to see what we're going to do this season."

""That's something I've had as a goal throughout my whole career. I want to get called up to the national team.""

Brandon Vazquez

So good has Vazquez's recent form been that there have even been suggestions the striker could be an outside better for a USMNT call-up, if he continues down this path.

For his part, the former United States youth international is blocking out the extra attention, staying focused on honing his craft and being the best version of himself he can be.

"I don't hear that too much, I try to not think about that," said Vazquez. "I just focus on coming in here into the training ground every day, putting in the work, try to get better every day, and perform on the weekends."

However, when pressed a little further, Vazquez did admit a senior national team call-up remains high on his list of career goals; as does crossing the pond and testing himself in Europe.

"That's something I've had as a goal throughout my whole career," he said. "I want to get called up to the national team. I eventually want to make that jump over to Europe, and compete in some of the most competitive leagues and against some of the best teams in the world.

"So it is a goal of mine. But right now, I just have to focus on performing here with Cincinnati, and when that day comes, I'm ready for it."