Carlos Vela flying for LAFC, but his success grounded by team performance

LOS ANGELES — Last year Josef Martinez and Atlanta United — both in their sophomore seasons in Major League Soccer — stormed the league to capture three things: the MLS Golden Boot, the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award, and MLS Cup.

After Martinez broke the all-time MLS scoring record last August, Carlos Vela praised the Venezuelan as a “scoring machine” who showed “no mercy,” in taking his chances and added the following:

“I hope in the future, I can break [his record].”

Now, nine games into 2019, Vela and LAFC — both in their sophomore MLS campaigns — are the ones playing great.

With 10 goals — including two against Seattle in their 4-1 win over the Sounders on Easter Sunday — and five assists, how is Vela feeling about his current form?

“Individually, I’m trying to help my team and do my best every game,” he said. “The team is working really well this season. We are believing in our level. We think we can beat any team in this league. So, our goal is to win the championship. If we want to do that, we have to have a lot of games like today and working hard is the only way to do something.”

And the goal record of 31 in a season?

That’s not something Vela — like his teammates and staff now steeped in the LAFC way of looking past statistics and toward bigger goals revolving around what manager Bob Bradley calls "football with ideas" — is too interested in talking about.

“Sometimes we talk about only my goals, but the work done by all the team is really good,” Vela said in Sunday’s press conference. “When they play well, it’s easy for us to score goals.”

Speaking to reporters following his side’s dismantling of Seattle Sunday night, Bradley praised his talisman's overall shift.

“He’s so excited coming off the field on a day like today," he said. "For not only the fact that he scores but for the kind of football we play as a team and everything else. Every player wants to be part of that.”

Asked whether the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic — who has a blistering seven goals in five games for the LA Galaxy — has added any pressure for Vela to perform, the Mexican international was dismissive.

“The only pressure is myself," he explained. "I think that if I work hard and do my best, I can score more goals, and I can help my team. So, this is the important thing. What’s important is to win games, make the playoffs, and try to win the MLS Cup. The rest doesn’t matter.”