Club Tijuana has been a haven for young talent from the San Diego area for years. Brandon Vazquez is one of many U.S. youth national team players to suit up for Xolos, and now he will be continuing his career with the red, black, and gold of Atlanta United.
Born in Chula Vista, California, Vazquez is a 6’3” striker who burst onto the scene after his performance in the 2015 U17 World Cup. He originally expected to participate in that tournament with Mexico, telling the Xolos website in July 2014, “I hope to be a starter with the national team and go play in the Under-17 World Cup.” Vazquez said, “I want to stay there and eventually make it to the first team.”
By the time the calendar had turned to February 2015, he was joining up with the U.S. U17 squad that was attempting to qualify for the World Cup. He scored a hat trick in his second game, a 4-0 win over Bermuda in a qualifying tune-up match. The adjustment to the U.S. was easy since Vazquez grew up in the States. He told Xolos’ website, “I fit right in. I feel at home here. There are bunch of guys here that I played club soccer with in San Diego. I adapted real fast. I get along with everybody. The coaches treat me real well. Everyone is real welcoming.”
At the World Cup late last year, Vazquez scored in games against Croatia and Chile, but the team did not escape the group stage. He was noticed though:
There were only two players to emerge from the 2015 U17 World Cup with improved stock individually.— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) December 2, 2016
1. Christian Pulisic
2. Brandon Vazquez
Since then, he has been part of the U.S. U19 team under coach Brad Friedel. You might have seen this free kick effort he scored against Spain earlier this year:
Brandon Vazquez (@Brvndonv) scored a brilliant free kick goal last night in U.S. U19 MNT's 1-0 win over Spain. pic.twitter.com/zKs5IrwGh8— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) July 30, 2016
His national team performances are what put him on the radar, but it his work at Tijuana that had helped him develop for this moment. Vazquez joined the Xolos youth system in 2012 when he joined their U15 squad.
Xolos have been scouring Southern California for years for talent, launching an American academy in Vazquez’s hometown of Chula Vista among other locations.
Vazquez starting climbing the ranks at Tijuana quickly and become one of their top prospects. An example is this hat trick against Atlas while with the Xolos’ U17 team late last year:
From there, he began getting time with the U20’s, which function as reserves for the first team. These games are often played before the first team games, something that has beneficial for Mexican clubs to develop young talent.
66th Min. 4-1 GOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Brandon Vasquez with a low powerful shot. #GoXolos pic.twitter.com/7c6aDsBItq— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) April 1, 2016
The U20 league is very competitive, and Tijuana’s team did very well last season. They advanced all the way to the final before falling to Queretaro in May. Vazquez participated in that series, and scored the opening goal in the second leg.
[VIDEO] @Brvndonv talks about his experience playing with #U20 squad and making it to #Clausura2016 finals. #GoXoloshttps://t.co/QnNyqnLSrb— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) May 24, 2016
This season, Vazquez was officially registered to the U20 squad, but began to train with the first team often. He told the Xolos website, “I have all the support from the coaches and that makes me happy to be able to be with the first team.” Vazquez continued, “I always try to do my best so that they keep me in mind.”
It was only a matter of time before Vazquez began to see a path to the first team and he made his debut in a Copa MX game on August 17. He was the second youngest American to debut with Xolos’ first team.
Amazing night ❌⚽️ more than happy to have made my debut with first team at 17 #Blessed #Xolos— Brandon (@Brvndonv) August 18, 2016
Atlanta United’s Tito Villalba has been on loan to Tijuana this season and has mostly played with the reserves. He has played alongside Vazquez quite a bit this fall. As Villalba found, there is a logjam for minutes in Tijuana with the club desperately trying to reclaim its past glories. The team crashed out in the playoffs after posting the best record during the regular season. Due to the pressure Miguel Herrera is under, many young players are finding that minutes with the first team are extremely limited.
With Villalba able to report back to Atlanta United directly this fall, along with Darren Eales’ former goalkeeper Brad Friedel coaching him at the U.S. U19 level, Vazquez was a known quantity to Atlanta United. In today’s press release, Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra said “Brandon has the natural goal scoring ability you look for in young forwards. He’ll have every opportunity to contribute to our First Team and to develop and progress with the National Team.”
He’ll have a player to learn from in Kenwyne Jones. Similar in size, Vazquez will have a mentor to develop behind. He will also be under the tutelage of Tata Martino, a manager who is known for developing young players and not being afraid of giving them opportunities to perform.
Next year will be a big year for Brandon Vazquez. In addition to being part of Atlanta United’s first season in MLS, he will also be trying to make the U.S. national team for the upcoming CONCACAF U20 Championship in February. The top four teams will qualify for the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup.