Carlos Vela might be back from injury, but he’s not back, not to the Vela who was the Landon Donovan MVP winner and record-seeing Golden Boot winner two years ago.

“I do not feel 100 percent. I feel like it’s still a long road to get to my highest level,” Vela said after LAFC’s 2-1 loss to NYCFC Saturday. “I am working hard to get there as fast as possible. You achieve it by training and games. This [international] break will allow me to prepare myself better so that when the league returns I will be able to give my team what it expects from me.”

The 32-year-old Mexican forward scored 52 goals in his first 66 MLS regular season games, 48 coming in his first two seasons. The Designated Player has been working his way back to full fitness after a right quadricep injury in a season-opening 2-0 victory over Austin FC

Vela played 20 minutes off the bench in a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders in his first game back on May 16, then 59 minutes in a start against Colorado last week and a full 90 against NYCFC Saturday. 

Vela squandered a golden chance in the 80th minute against NYCFC, intercepting a pass from Sean Johnson, but failing to get a good shot off.

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“It’s a play that Carlos makes 999 times out of a thousand,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “We continue to work with it. Look, anybody can miss a chance, it happens, so that’s the one in a thousand for someone like Carlos. We’ve got to just continue to find good work in games. I’ve mentioned that to get him back to his best level, it’s going to take a continuous period of training and games.”

LAFC won’t be back on the field again for three weeks, when they host Houston Dynamo FC on June 19 (11 pm ET | UniMás, TUDN, Twitter (English audio). Vela expects to be back to his old self at that time. 

“Three weeks of training every day and preparing myself will be good for me, my performance and my confidence,” Vela said, “I hope when we return you will be able to see my best level and the Carlos that everybody knows.”

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