It’s official: Carlos Vela is headed to Los Angeles FC.
The incoming expansion club announced on Wednesday that they have signed the 28-year-old Mexican national team forward from La Liga club Real Sociedad as their first-ever Designated Player. The news was first reported on Tuesday by the LA Times’ Kevin Baxter.
LAFC has reached an agreement with Real Sociedad that will transfer Vela to the MLS club on January 1, 2018. He will remain at Real Sociedad for the rest of 2017.
“This is another momentous day for LAFC,” said LAFC General Manager and Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations John Thorrington in a statement announcing the signing. “Carlos is a player who will excite our fans, and who, despite his age, has great experience playing internationally and in the top leagues in the world. He is the exact type and profile of player we have been targeting and couldn’t be more excited to announce him as LAFC’s first-ever Designated Player.”
Vela, who scored in Mexico’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against the US at Estadio Azteca in June, is the second El Tri star to join MLS this summer, signing with LAFC just two weeks after Mexico midfielder Jonathan dos Santos joined brother Giovani dos Santos at the LA Galaxy.
"It is very special for me to be the first Designated Player in LAFC history,” Vela said. “I'm honored to be here and to begin my new adventure playing for the people of Los Angeles.”
Vela is the second major building block of LAFC's on-field project to fall into place, following the hiring of former US national team coach Bob Bradley in late July.
"Carlos is an exciting attacking player capable of scoring and setting up goals," Bradley said. “He has played in big matches with Mexico, in the Premiership and La Liga, and will help establish the style and tempo that we want to build at LAFC.”
Vela has spent his entire pro club career between Spain and England, coming up through the Arsenal ranks before eventually playing six seasons with Real Sociedad, scoring 72 goals in all competitions for the Basque club. His best season came in 2013-14, when he hit 16 goals in La Liga, three in the UEFA Champions League and two more in Copa Del Rey.
Vela had been out of the Mexican national team picture for several years, and did not play in any qualifying matches during the 2014 World Cup cycle, sitting out the 2014 World Cup. But he has scored twice in six appearances during the 2018 World Cup cycle, and also featured in three games in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this summer. He has 17 goals in 55 career caps with El Tri.