SAN JOSE, Calif. – If anyone appreciated Carlos Vela’s quality from afar, it was Matias Almeyda.
During his time at Liga MX heavyweights Chivas de Guadalajara, the current San Jose Earthquakes coach “asked” for the forward, who was then with Spanish side Real Sociedad. Chivas’ financial struggles at that time, however, made it “very difficult” for the Argentine to have his wish granted.
Fast-forward a couple of years and Vela is in the prime of his career, scoring and assisting when and where he pleases. His production value, exactly? An MLS single-season record for combined goals and assists (39), which one-ups the mark former Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco set in 2015, well before the close of the current campaign.
Almeyda, like seemingly everyone in MLS circles, has taken notice of Vela’s historic season for the Black & Gold.
“All positive,” Almeyda said when asked about the Mexican forward's 2019 campaign. “It’s admirable how he’s doing it with willingness. He’s demonstrated that he’s the foreigner that has come in to make a difference with determination, with a possibility to play in another league, but he chose this one.”
That choice has San Jose and LAFC set to again meet Wednesday evening (10:30 pm ET | UniMas, Twitter, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) as part of Heineken Rivalry Week. Almeyda has a firsthand experience of what to expect from Vela, too.
To remain alive in the tightly-contested Western Conference playoff race, San Jose will look to minimize Vela’s influence with tight marking and tracking of his every move. But will it be enough this time around?
“He’s paying off. He’s scored almost every goal for LAFC, no?” Almeyda added with a laugh and smile that belied the scope of the challenge facing his team this week.