Veteran midfielder Victor Vazquez to miss Toronto FC season opener with rib injury

Toronto FC will be without veteran attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez for Saturday's MLS season opener at D.C. United.

Coach Bob Bradley said the 36-year-old Spaniard took "a shot in the ribs" 30 minutes into a Feb. 11 pre-season game against Los Angeles FC at the Coachella Valley Invitational in California.

"(He) hasn't trained since," Bradley told reporters Thursday. "We're hopeful that he'll be returning to training soon."

Midfielder Themi Antonoglou, a 21-year-old homegrown player who saw action in two league games last season, is also out with a lower body injury.

Vazquez rejoined Toronto in December after spending the past two seasons in Los Angeles with the Galaxy.

He became available when the Galaxy elected not to exercise his contract option, allowing Toronto to select him in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft.

Vazquez is signed through 2023 with an option for 2024.

Vazquez left Toronto in January 2019 after two successful years to play in Qatar for Al-Arabi Sports Club and Umm Salal Sport Club. He joined Belgium's K.A.S. Eupen in 2020.

A product of the FC Barcelona academy and former Belgian Professional Footballer of the Year with Club Brugge, Vazquez was a big part of TFC's glory days.

He scored the insurance goal in Toronto's 2-0 MLS Cup final win over Seattle in 2017 when he also helped TFC to the Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship. Vazquez was chosen a member of the MLS Best XI after scoring eight goals and adding 16 assists during the regular season.

Vazquez totalled 18 goals and 28 assists in 65 appearances in all competitions for TFC in 2017 and 18.

He was slowed by a variety of ailments with Toronto in 2018, restricting him to 21 league appearances. Its playoff hopes gone, the team shut him down for the last three games of the season to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.

Vazquez has had chronic knee problems in his career, but was also dogged by a nerve issue and sore back with Toronto.

He was healthy enough to appear in 54 of the Galaxy's 68 regular-season games over the last two seasons.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press