October 6, 2018 was a very important date in Toronto FC history.
But more on that in a moment.
Sports dynasties are hard to maintain in today’s sports world. A combination of unrestricted free agency, players due for extensions, and salary caps means that teams can enjoy elite levels for only so long before natural causes lead to their untimely demise. Much to my chagrin, the Golden State Warriors have been a mini dynasty for the last four years, but already talks are that one or two of their elite players may leave this summer, leading to an earlier-than-expected stop of their run at the top of the mountain.
The one seeming exception to this trend is the New England Patriots of the NFL. With almost 15 years between their first championship run, and their most recent, they are an example of a long and sustained dynasty. A championship team from which all others could learn — including Toronto FC.
One of the things that I’ve always admired of Bill Belichick is the way in which he can always know when a player is getting near the end, and cuts ties with them one year too early, rather than one year too late. It may seem callous, but there is no room for sentimental or ceremonial contracts in sports, when you’re up against a cap and competing for championships.
And with that said, the best thing going forward for Toronto FC would be if Victor Vazquez has played his last game in a TFC uniform.
Victor Vazquez deserves his name on the Wall of Honour and a lifelong thanks from the club and its supporters, but the end is near for him, and with his age and injury history now, all evidence would suggest that the 2018 season, and not the 2017 season, is a much better indication of what to expect from Vazquez in 2019.
A few of the injuries or knocks that Victor picked up this season occurred without contact. Twice at BMO Field, he had to be subbed in the middle of a game because of a hamstring pull from having kicked the ball without anyone else within a 5-yard radius. These aren’t just freak injuries, they’re injuries of fatigue, and with Victor’s age, it’s not going to magically improve for 2019. (Ed.: Trust Tej, he’s a doctor.)
With Toronto FC again qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League, there is going to be a fair bit of travel early on, and concurrent fixtures with the MLS schedule. Last year proved that Toronto FC cannot just dismiss these early games as a ‘write-off’, as it turns out three points in March and April are worth as much as three points in September and October. With that in mind, the time is now for Toronto FC to get younger in the midfield. Assuming Giovinco is back, and there isn’t too much behind Jozy’s late season comments, the three DPs need some younger players around them to stay competitive, and players who can be counted on to play matches across the continent without worry that old age may kick our ass before the opponent ever gets a chance to.
Tim Bezbatchenko has gone out and found diamonds in the wilderness before, and one has to have faith that he and the scouting staff can find another Giovinco or Vazquez again. And let’s not forget that Drew Moor has also run out of gas and needs to be replaced by a younger version of himself.
One of the great truths in sport is that Father Time remains undefeated. Innovations in sports science can fight it off a few extra years longer than before, but when the decline for an athlete comes, it’s not a gradual roll down the hill… it’s a fall off of a steep cliff. The best thing for this club would be to accept this reality and not hope that Vazquez will somehow be an exception to a rule that is rarely broken, if ever.
October 6, 2018 will be, and needs to be, celebrated. In the coming years, we will all give a standing ovation and hold our hands together to make a heart symbol in honor of Victor Vazquez. Those of us who were in attendance will remember October 6, 2018 with a kind fondness in a season scattered mainly with disappointments. October 6, 2018 should, and needs to be, the last game that Victor Vazquez had played in a Toronto FC uniform.