Carlos Vela’s historic season with LAFC reaped its first reward as the Black and Gold were crowned Supporters’ Shield campions on Wednesday thanks to a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo. Here are three quick reactions from Carlos Vela’s first big achievement in Major League Soccer.
Vela doing all the right things at LAFC
“I didn’t remember how it felt like,” Vela said jokingly after the game. Believe it or not, but this is the first trophy in the entirety of Carlos Vela’s club career. You’d have to go back to 2015 when El Tri defeated Jamaica in the Gold Cup Final for the last time Vela lifted any sort of silverware.
Look, say what you want about Vela and the decisions he has taken during the last two years of his career, but as he has mentioned time and time again, this is what he came to Major League Soccer for, to win trophies. You can’t fault a guy for doing just that and doing it while also being the best player in the league (because he is going to win the MVP trophy).
As far as anybody is concerned, Vela feels right in LA, and all those things he said about being ready to be the face of the franchise in his introductory press conference, he has more than backed it up. In fact, when you talk about LAFC and how they have built a healthy relationship with the community around them, a lot of it has to do with Vela. He has responded both off and on the field, and he might just be the most popular Mexican player in the city of Los Angeles, even above guys like Chicharito and “Chucky” Lozano.
A new leadership role
Coach Bob Bradley admitted he had nothing to say to his players at the end of the match, highlighting how this was their moment and how “this was for them”.
Bradley, however, did have one particular player in mind when he uttered these words and that was his captain Carlos Vela. One thing Bradley spoke about is Vela having to take a leadership role for the first time in his career, and how in that regard, how special it must have been for him to win this trophy. As Bradley has put it in the past, Vela’s always been what we call a “quiet leader”, and while that might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it’s clear by the way his teammates and coach talk about him that he has the full respect of the team.
Obviously, the hardest part of the season is yet to come, and it will be interesting to see how Vela’s leadership will endure the unforgivingness of the MLS Cup Playoffs. As last season showed, all it takes is a few bad moments and your whole season can hang on the line. That’s when the real leaders show up.
LAFC and Vela are not done
To quote Bob Bradley one last time, “the first trophy is always the hardest”. The fact of the matter is that now with the Supporters’ Shield out of the way, LAFC are the undisputed favorites to win the MLS Cup. Their path wont’ be easy, of course, given how competitive the Western Conference has been this season, but you get the feeling that if they get the right matchups, they can more or less dominate on their way to the trophy.
As for Carlos Vela, he practically already has his hands on the MVP trophy, and he is just two goals shy from breaking Josef Martinez’s goalscoring record from last season. When it’s all said and done, we may be talking about the best individual season of one player in the history of Major League Soccer.