LOS ANGELES – Nearly every high-profile player linked with LAFC as a potential signing has shared one thing in common: attacking ability.
With Carlos Vela officially announced, the club is putting the pieces in place to be an attacking team.
“It’s a statement,” head coach Bob Bradley told reporters Friday, the Space Shuttle Endeavour looming behind him at the California Science Center at Vela's introductory press conference. “It’s a statement that reaffirms what the club is all about, the values, the connection with the city, and it’s a statement about what our football will be like.”
Bradley’s announcement last month as the first coach in LAFC history, and now the unveiling of Vela as the team’s first Designated Player finally provides some concrete idea for their playing profile when they kick off in 2018.
In his club career, across England and Spain, as well as for the Mexican national team, Vela has operated as a true attacker. He’s scored in over a fourth of his more than 350 professional club appearances while providing 67 assists. Despite a three-year absence from the national team, he’s delivered 17 goals in 55 appearances for his country, two of them against the United States.
One of those goals came against Bob Bradley’s US national team side in the 2009 Gold Cup final, which finished 5-0 in favor of Mexico.
“When he has the ball at his feet, the stadium rises because you know good things will happen,” Bradley said. “This is what we want to be about when we step on the field.
Below the nose of the Endeavour, LAFC supporters, many of whom wore special t-shirts stylized to include the club’s art-deco-inspired LA crest as the final two letters in Vela’s name, chanted “We got the candle for LA,” to the tune of classic American spiritual “He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Vela means candle in Spanish.
Team co-owner Will Ferrell presented “The Candle” with one of those shirts in lieu of a proper kit, which has yet to be released, but Vela told reporters he hopes his will bear the No. 10, known the world over as the iconic playmaker's number.
“Taking off, that’s a very good metaphor,” LAFC lead managing owner Larry Berg said standing beneath the shuttle beside Ferrell and his family after the press conference. “Between Bob and Carlos, now we’re really launching.”
The progress has been welcomed by the 18,000-plus official LAFC members, who have waited through years of growing expectations for their first signing.
“We’re moving forward with a big-name player,” Long Beach Chrome supporter group member Micael Pradon said. “Things are starting to get real.”