"My fault": LAFC mistakenly sub off Carlos Vela in season-opener

An apparent miscommunication led to one of the oddest sequences you're likely to see in MLS all season in LAFC's season-opening matchup with expansion side Austin FC at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.

It all started 20 minutes in the contest, when LAFC star Carlos Vela appeared to tweak his knee while lunging for a cross from teammate Corey Baird. The attacker immediately motioned for a trainer to come look at the knock, which was evidently interpreted by head coach Bob Bradley as a sign that Vela was asking to be subbed off.

Vela was replaced by Kwadwo Opoku, but appeared to be contending as he walked to the sideline that he had been planning to stay in the match.

"Yeah, I might've jumped the gun," LAFC coach Bob Bradley told broadcasters John Strong and Stu Holden in an in-game interview right after the substitution. "That might be my fault. Not sure. He gave us a sign early on that he needed to come off, I thought, so I can't say more than maybe it's my fault.

Bradley elaborated on the situation on his postgame video call, saying that by the time he realized that Vela wanted to stay in the game, the move had already been made. The coach didn't update the severity of the knock that preceded the substitution, but did say that his impression is that Vela has "a little knot" in his leg.

"When he went off the field, he had a look, and he gave me a little indication and then he came over and it almost looked like he wanted to try," Bradley said. "We still need to get to the bottom of it, there might be just a little knot in there. So, exactly what it means from here, hard to say. But like I said, the way he went off the field, my understanding at that moment was that he needed to come off, and so those things happen.

"There's no issues. If he gives a little bit of a [look] like 'I need to come off' and then he comes over at the last second and says, 'No, I want to try', well, it's too late at that point. So I tell him quickly, 'I thought you needed to come off'. I take responsibility, sorry about that. At halftime I checked on him and said, 'Look, hopefully it's OK'. We're still checking that part out, so there's nothing more to say. I can take responsibility if I make a move too fast, so there's no problem for me saying that I jumped the gun on that one, but it happens."

In the end, it didn't wind up costing LAFC any points, as the match finished with a 2-0 victory, although Vela's status will certainly be closely monitored ahead of LAFC's match next weekend against the Seattle Sounders. Vela, who missed a large part of the 2020 season with a knee injury, appeared to be OK as he walked off the field, which is hopefully a sign he won't have to miss any time going forward.