SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was a few days later than some had hoped or anticipated, but the Carlos Vela show made its way to the Bay Area this week after all.
After being left off the Mexican national team roster for Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Paraguay at Levi’s Stadium, the 30-year-old Mexican international stated his case that there is more to come as he responded with his first career MLS hat trick as LAFC dominated the San Jose Earthquakes in a 5-0 win on Saturday Afternoon at Avaya Stadium.
“They played one on one in the whole field, and we have really quick guys. We found the spaces and the moments to do the counterattack and then we controlled the game,” said Vela to reporters after the game.
While the highlight-reel goals have had people buzzing about how high the ceiling is for Vela and LAFC, his teammates and coaches buzzed as much about the star's work rate and how he makes the team better even when he doesn’t have the ball at his feet.
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“Carlos is a good player, this year he’s had such a good way of moving,” said LAFC manager Bob Bradley. “Instead of just coming back for every ball he's found a really good balance of being on the move more, and that’s really important.”
“He’s a special player,” added LAFC defender Steven Beitashour, who had a goal as well against his former club. “He’s one of the guys and he works hard, he’s out there defending and chasing guys down, he’s battling with us. People look at what he does on the field, but what he’s like in the locker room and at training, we’re so lucky to have him.”
After a dominating performance by Vela, the questions about a return to El Tri with this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup looming will persist.
“I’m focused on LAFC and trying to have a good season, and the rest you never know,” said Vela. “I’d have to speak with Tata [Martino, Mexico's head coach] and you never know. I’m always open to help him and supporting my country.”
And following an MVP-level performance in San Jose, it seems natural to put Vela on the pedestal of the best player in MLS.
“When I was in Spain you had Messi and Ronaldo, it was impossible to be the best. But here, I feel like I am at a good level and I know I can be one of the best in this league,” Vela said.
And Beitashour agrees.
“It’s not what we expect from him, but when he does it, you’re not as shocked. If he keeps this up, he should win MVP,” he said.