Toronto FC squandered a two-goal lead against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. But in the midst of the drama, Alejandro Pozuelo was superb. The midfielder can have an MVP-calibre season in 2020.
In 2019, Carlos Vela produced the best individual season in MLS history. Not only did he set the single-season record for goals scored with a staggering 34 in 31 games; he also added 15 assists, a figure only two other players bettered.
As the spearhead of the brilliant Los Angeles FC attack, which equalled the record for goals scored in a single season, Vela utterly dominated the league with some truly indescribably brilliant performances. He was as close to perfect as you will see in professional sport.
But the foundation for his record-setting year came the season prior, his first in the league. In 2378 minutes, roughly 400 fewer than in his MVP-winning campaign, he totalled 14 goals and 13 assists, an immediate illustration of the combined goal threat and creativity that he possesses, something that very few players in the entire league can replicate.
What separated Vela from the other outstanding individuals in MLS was that he would score and assist at the highest rate in the league. Where Maxi Moralez topped the league with 20 assists, he scored just a fifth of Vela’s goals. Similarly, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez scored 30 and 27 goals respectively, figures in the realm of Vela, they combined for four fewer assists than the Mexican.
With the 2020 season now officially underway, the very best in MLS have taken to the pitch once more in an attempt to lead their teams to MLS Cup, something that Vela was crucially unable to do. And there is one player who might just be ready for an MVP-calibre season that could lead his team to the playoffs and beyond: Toronto FC talisman, Alejandro Pozuelo.
Pozuelo arrived at Toronto FC shortly before the 2019 season. He proceeded to score 12 goals and add 12 assists in 2524 minutes. If you think those numbers are familiar, they are. They are extremely similar to the stat line Vela produced in his first season in MLS. Only three players produced double-digit goals and assists, Carles Gil being the third with Pozuelo and Vela. In a vacuum, Pozuleo enjoyed a very encouraging first year with Toronto. But dig a little deeper, and there is more reason to believe that he could be ready to elevate himself to superstardom.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
Pozuelo did not arrive until March 4th. The season had already begun and Pozuelo was coming into a team that had just lost its two best creators in the offseason, Victor Vazquez and, most crucially, Sebastian Giovinco. More than that, he was arriving in a new team, league and country having already played the majority of a European season for KRC Genk. In fact, from July 26th 2018 until MLS Cup, Pozuelo played 78 competitive games. That works out as a game every six days without any break whatsoever. In 2020, he should be fresher.
And the initial signs are positive. Pozuelo was superb in Toronto FC’s season-opening draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. He already has a goal with a lovely penalty into the bottom corner and was central to much of the positive attacking play TFC produced.
He only played 76 minutes but had a team-high 60 touches, completed a game-high six dribbles, made two key passes, and was the primary outlet for Toronto FC to both release pressure when defending deep and producing neat combinations in central areas. To put it simply, Pozuelo looked sharp, as if he had had a much-needed rest.
Quite what 2020 holds for Pozuelo and Toronto FC remains to be seen. But after Vela’s jump in his second year, do not be surprised if you see an MVP-calibre campaign from TFC’s main man.