LAFC star Carlos Vela expects "way better" from himself

Carlos Vela LAFC

Most players, if they had one goal and two assists through their team’s first five games of the 2023 MLS season, would be somewhat satisfied.

LAFC forward Carlos Vela is not like most players.

“I’m not happy with where I am right now,” the Mexican star said Tuesday in a virtual availability. “I think I can play way better.”

Vela’s comments, which arrived before the Black & Gold’s Concacaf Champions League leg-one quarterfinal game at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, were made amid a three-game scoring drought. The 34-year-old captain also missed a penalty kick in a 2-1 win over FC Dallas late last month.

All the while, the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions sit third in the Western Conference table and seem capable of challenging for trophies on multiple fronts. With that baseline, Vela’s highly motivated to join an offense that’s been paced by Dénis Bouanga and features young forwards Stipe Biuk and Kwadwo Opoku.

“If [I’m] not playing good and we’re in a good position, when myself starts to play better, score more goals, create more chances for my team, I think everything can be way better,” Vela remarked. “So that is my goal. I’m working hard, I’m trying and trying.

“… My head is only positive things, trying to get my rhythm, trying to be in my level. And after that, for sure a lot of good things are coming.”

That mentality, in many ways, explains the astounding 70 goals and 48 assists Vela has posted across 123 regular-season matches for LAFC. Those gaudy figures would likely be even higher without since-shaken injury troubles that limited Vela’s 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Vela, who won 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors behind video game-like production, is the last remaining player from LAFC’s inaugural squad a half-dozen years ago. With that experience and standard, he expects more from the club as well.

“We know we can play way better,” said Vela. “It’s not a good sign, but also it’s a good sign because when you are not in your best and you’re still [near] the first position in the table, you’re still [in] Concacaf Champions League in a good spot to advance, I think it shows the team is a good team, has a good mentality.”

Vela and LAFC, in their second season under head coach Steve Cherundolo, return to league action Saturday when hosting Austin FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass, FOX). That game will serve as a rematch of the 2022 Western Conference Final that LAFC won 3-0.