As soon as his pass was away, the Quake’s Andres Rios barreled him over.
The home side were already up 2-0, the referee had just booted Matias Almeyda from the touchline, and although the Quakes played their typically tough brand of football, Rios had not cleared out Perez intentionally. Perhaps, even, he had merely been distracted by the first moment of what would become one of the most audacious goals in MLS history.
"My teammate right here,” Perez would say afterward, struggling to find the words after bagging a goal of his own in a 4-0 victory that took a back seat to Vela's individual virtuosity. “I can’t describe a goal like that.
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“Why not take on the whole team and score by yourself?”
Perez’s pass was earmarked for Carlos Vela. But first, the LAFC captain performed one of the most phenomenal dummies the league has seen. From there, he moved like a flash of candlelight in a cyclone, dispatching defenders with the calm lethality of a poison-dart-wielding assassin.
Quakes captain Guram Kashia was first to fall, a studs-up slide tackle not enough to make up for the space Vela's dummy bought. Next came Florian Jungwirth — who at least remained on his feet — with an ill-conceived clearance attempt. All the while goalkeeper Daniel Vega was moving off his line, preparing for a shot on target, only for Vela to cradle the ball into the six-yard box.
Nick Lima made a last-gasp sliding effort across the goal line and the Mexican magician had the audacity to wait until the U.S. national team right back came to a complete stop before pausing — as if to say, “wait for it…” — and at last scooping the ball carefully into the right corner of the net.
The record will show four opposing players were felled. If you include Rios and Marcos Lopez — who, completely mesmerized, could manage little more than a aimless trot while watching the whole thing transpire — more than half of San Jose’s starting XI were victims of Vela’s long kiss goodnight.
“Diego [gave] a good pass," Vela said calmly afterward. "After that, I just see players and I say, ‘let’s do something,’ and I cannot stop. I take the ball and I just run and keep dribbling.”
LAFC would go on to win their fifth straight league match and their fifth game in all competitions against the Quakes. But no need to wait until the post-match press conference for reactions to the MLS MVP frontrunner's video-game-like high-score combo maneuver.
There’d already been Messi comparisons, but for this, only Diego Maradona would do.
Here's Vela's goal. The UniMas broadcasters are now talking about Maradona, so, yeah, it was a pretty good goal. https://t.co/O1wxuYGgAU— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) August 22, 2019
Bob Bradley offered up his own thoughts on what he felt was awesome, both as an individual effort as well as a great front-to-back team goal.
“We all want to see moments like that, you know," he said. "You come to the game tonight and you see that goal, and yeah, that’s something that stays with you.”
“He does it with his humility, with his play, his conviction, and his example," he said. "Congratulations to the team who has him. We have in front of us the best player in the league. He does not forgive you.”