A one-man wrecking crew in the MLS, Carlos Vela looks to continue his blistering goal-scoring pace Sunday night when Los Angeles FC attempts to complete a home-and-home sweep of FC Dallas.
Vela, already a two-time winner of the league’s player of the month award, has scored at least one goal in nine of LAFC’s 13 matches. The Mexico international, who declined a call-up to El Tri for next month’s international friendlies ahead of the Gold Cup to concentrate on playing for the Black and Gold, is already near the halfway mark to break Josef Martinez’s single-season league record of 31 goals set last year with MLS Cup winners Atlanta United.
“We are in a really good run. but we can’t feel that we know everything and there is nothing to get better at,” he told the Los Angeles Times in Spanish after Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over the Hoops. “The season is long and we need to work game by game and improve every day to keep this rhythm. We all know the important part of the season is at the end and during the playoffs but we are doing good things right now.”
Vela opened the scoring for LAFC (9-3-1) in the 39th minute with a clinical finish inside the left post from 15 yards after being picked out by Eduard Atuesta. He turned playmaker for Diego Rossi’s goal seven minutes from time for his seventh assist. Vela also nearly scored on two other occasions, hitting the crossbar in the 10th minute and having a shot roll just wide in the 89th.
In addition to stalking Martinez’s single-season goals mark, Vela is also well on pace to surpass the MLS record for combined goals and assists in a season, set by Sebastian Giovinco in 2015 with 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC.
“He’s playing great,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley understated. “His mentality for every game, his willingness to take the ball, try to create, get chances, score goals. In right moments, he’s unselfish. He sets the standard and I think everybody sees it.”
LAFC was so dominant Tyler Miller did not make a save as he recorded his third consecutive shutout and sixth clean sheet of the season. The Black and Gold carry a 359-minute shutout streak into this contest dating back to Jordan Morris’ first-minute goal for Seattle in a 1-1 draw April 28.
The quirk of the schedule of playing the same club twice in four days presents a challenge for FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez after his 3-4-1-2 set-up failed to deliver the desired results and looked more like a five-man back as LAFC hemmed the Hoops (5-2-5) in their own third with a high press.
Gonzalez is fortunate defender Bressan was not sent off late for a dangerous challenge on Vela and also somehow escaped without even a yellow card. FC Dallas was outshot 27-7 overall in losing its third straight match and has been held to two goals during a four-match winless streak.
“I thought we fought today,” Gonzalez said. “It hurts to lose. Can we not just create moments around their box but have some concrete finishes and be a little more lethal around their box. That’s a heck of a team, you can see they’re training well, playing well and have great talent.”
(Carlos Vela photo courtesy Cleansheet Twitter account)
(Jesse Gonzalez photo courtesy Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)