One day — 24 hours — before Wednesday's match, Elias Vasquez was in Guatemala. He'd only just received his P-1 visa, and that chance that he'd be able to play with Real Salt Lake against Portland Timbers was probably fading.
In his post-match press conference, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said that Vasquez had called to tell him that he missed a flight because he was training with his national team, and then he was on a red-eye flight — likely the next available one.
"It’s a team effort," Cassar said. "He wanted to be for the team. That’s the kind of guys that we need on the team right now."
Vasquez arrived in the U.S. at 10:30 a.m. today, which didn't allow much time for him to get ready for the game. And that time away didn't include practicing with the defenders around him — he'd been absent for three weeks.
With such a tight timeframe and a lack of practice, skepticism would have been warranted from Jeff Cassar. But rather than sitting him on the bench and playing Phanuel Kavita — the only option, but not exactly an awful one — who doesn't have nearly the level of experience, he put faith in his player.
Vasquez paid back that faith with a tremendous performance against a difficult opponent. Portland Timbers may not have had their best lineup out there — they were missing Will Johnson, Diego Chara, and Darlington Nagbe — but they still created chances and, several times in the first half, found players with long balls over the top.
Regardless, Vasquez — alongside Aaron Maund — had a clean, effective game, stopping too much from going wrong in an important match. He may or may not be in Salt Lake City for another big game on Saturday — this time against Orlando City — but the dedication he's shown in being here and the intelligence he's shown on the pitch is praiseworthy. Let's hope we get to see more of the same in short order.