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The significance of this season for Alejandro Pozuelo

Alejandro Pozuelo is into the most important season of his TFC career. He will need to improve on last season’s collapse by showcasing his talent to secure his long-term future with Toronto FC.

Alejandro Pozuelo signals a corner kick in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia Union April 16, 2022.
Sean Pollock/Waking the Red

When Alejandro Pozuelo arrived in the spring of 2019, he was an unknown. I remember a few days after he arrived in Toronto, he was walking by himself in the Scotiabank Arena concourse amongst a busy and bustling hockey crowd. He was attending the Maple Leafs game that evening, and I spotted him as he was walking past me. I pointed at him and said, “Alejandro? Welcome to Toronto!” He responded in a hushed tone, “Thank you, gracias.” The Spaniard then offered a handshake, and continued on his way. Little did I know I’d be shaking the hand of a future MLS MVP Award winner.

In his very first game with his new team, Pozuelo donned the number 10, which was made so incredibly renowned of his predecessor. Pozuelo earned his way into history books by assisting the opening goal of the match and later scoring two himself, including one from the penalty spot that would go down as one of the most impressive debut goals from a TFC player.

The $11M transfer fee TFC paid to obtain his services ended up being one of the many significant additions in club history, as Pozuelo would go on to win the Landon Donovan MVP Award as the league’s best player in 2020. He ended his campaign with nine goals and a joint league record 10 assists.

Pozuelo’s on-field production had a slight decline during the 2021 season. He only scored one goal in 19 games and tallied four assists. This wasn’t the Pozuelo who graced us with his terrific ability to pick out passes and take opportunities on goal-scoring chances like his first two years with the club. It was strange getting to witness a player lose his MVP-caliber ability last season and one could only wonder if he would get back to his goal-scoring ways.

During his MVP-Award winning season, Pozuelo was the key playmaker with 10 assists to his name during the MLS season while averaging 85% pass accuracy. He dominated the league with 70 chances created and even earned himself the MLS Player of the Month for September. He was also featured five times in the MLS Team of the Week and became the first player in club history to start every regular season match in a campaign.

Now in the final year of his four-year contract, the question still looms as to whether Pozuelo will return to MVP-form, or will he just become an expendable commodity.

Pozuelo is currently 30-years-young and he has been TFC’s most monumental playmaker since his arrival in 2019. He is fifth on Toronto FC’s all-time goal scoring chart (26) and just seven shy of Dwayne De Rosario in fourth.

Since the beginning of the 2022 season, Pozuelo is slowly, but surely starting to find his rhythm again and his prowess in recent games is beginning to manifest. Pozuelo has racking up the minutes under Bob Bradley, starting in every game this season and setting the standard for 630 minutes played in MLS thus far.

His first goal in 16 matches dating back to August of last year came in the 23rd minute of the March 19th game against D.C. United. After a successful headed lob into the box from Michael Bradley, Pozuelo was able to rifle the ball into the bottom left corner.

The 2020 Award-Winning MVP was probably just taking a back seat in TFC’s miserable 2021 season. But once again, Pozuelo’s goal-scoring ability is starting to reappear, and though it may be early in the season, from watching the TFC games in recent weeks, he and off-season acquisition Jesús Jiménez appear to be inseparable.

“I know him. He knows me. I’m happy to be playing with him,” stated Pozuelo after a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia over the weekend. Toronto’s only two goals came from the Spanish connection, and at times, the duo were linking up passes and finding each other in every area of the pitch.

Furthermore, Pozuelo is in the most important season of his career. He’s Toronto’s best playmaker and best chance creator, having an 80% pass rate in seven games this season. He has grown to love this city while playing for this club under Bob Bradley and Bill Manning.

During an end-of-season media availability last season, Pozuelo touched on the subject of potentially extending his contract with the club:

“I hope I can be here a lot of years…I’m happy here. With a new project, new coach. I’m very excited. I hope I can be here more years.”

As of writing this, no discussions or talks have been publicly shared regarding the future of Alejandro Pozuelo. However, if Bob Bradley and the club wish to pursue a contract extension, Pozuelo will want to showcase his dexterity in upcoming matches by being consistent with his work rate and excelling in the playmaker role.

Sure, channelling his 2020 season may be a little too big of a request to ask for at the moment, but in recent weeks, he has shown a slight increase with his on-field mechanics and at times, looks refreshed and rejuvenated.

When he first arrived and set foot among the sea of blue and white in the concourse of Scotiabank Arena in 2019, only a few soccer fans would be able to single him out. But what Alejandro Pozuelo has accomplished in his tenure with TFC has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he has crafted himself into one of the more recognizable players in MLS history.

The summer months will be crucial for Pozuelo’s performance. If Pozuelo and Jiménez are able to link up many more times during the season, the chemistry in this squad will continue to grow. With Lorenzo Insigne arriving in July, who Pozuelo is excited to play with, Toronto FC’s attack will look mighty dangerous and the three will be looking to lead the offence and compete for silverware. And one can only hypothesize if that will play a part in Pozuelo’s future with the club.