LAFC are three points below the Western Conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line with three games to play.
It’s crunch time and perhaps the perfect opportunity for Carlos Vela to emerge from the phone booth with his Superman cape to guide LAFC to the postseason.
For the first time in a long time, Vela is not on LAFC's injury report and there’s a chance he steps on the field for a critical tilt against the Seattle Sounders Tuesday evening at Banc of California Stadium (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes).
“Carlos was in training today and I think continues to make progress, so there's a possibility he could be an option for us for some minutes,” LAFC manager Bob Bradley told reporters Tuesday.
Injuries have limited Vela to just 17 appearances this season and he's scored five goals. That’s on the heels of four goals a year ago in seven matches. It’s certainly not what LAFC fans envisioned after Vela broke an MLS record with 34 regular-season goals in 2019, all while winning the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award and Supporters’ Shield title.
But the 32-year-old, who last played on August 21, a 15-minute shift cut short because of a hamstring injury, still can be a difference-maker for a team in desperate need of one.
“That left foot’s still special,” Bradley said. "So even when he hasn't played in a while, his ability to make a real pass or if he gets a chance to shoot, those are things we’ve seen a lot of. The fact that he’s been able to do a little bit in training gives everybody the confidence that if we pick the right spot, he can step on and maybe help us.”
Bradley ruled Vela out of the starting XI and said the club need to be “smart with his minutes.”
But having Vela’s quality as an option off the bench could inspire LAFC, which continues to miss Eduard Atuesta (right shoulder injury) and will be without midfielder Jose Cifuentes against the Sounders due to yellow card accumulation.
“Maybe we can find a spot that fits and he can come on and help make a play that makes a difference,” Bradley said of Vela.