LOS ANGELES — The 3252 North End supporters at Banc of California Stadium have seen Carlos Vela do a lot of things.
Only a few minutes earlier they’d seen the LAFC star level the score for the home side at 3-3 to erase the LA Galaxy’s first half goal flurry. This past Wednesday night, they watched him carve up the San Jose defense to score one of the frontrunners for best goal of the season.
What they hadn’t seen was him ripping off the arm band off and throwing it onto the pristine Bermuda grass.
It happened the moment Vela saw his number up on the substitute board in the 61st minute.
“Obviously, he’s a huge competitor so he’s not too happy when he comes off,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said about the Golden Boot and MLS Cup MVP candidate’s reaction after the match. “But we’re not going to take a bigger risk and leave him out there when we know by the reaction that he’s now felt a little something.”
The little something involves Vela’s right hamstring which Bradley didn’t speculate on the severity of but did mention the player would likely get an MRI Monday.
Despite being unable to finally notch their first win against the Galaxy in five attempts — two losses and three draws — Bradley’s focus remains winning titles and even if in the heat of the moment, his captain was frustrated not to continue.
"The conversation with Carlos is what you’d expect,” said the coach of the league-leaders. “’No I wanted to stay on, and I said, ‘I know you did.’ I made the decision because tonight, I think it’s the best one for us so that’s it."
Following his substitution, the Mexican playmaker calmed down and worked with the club’s performance staff on the sidelines before getting the irritated right hamstring iced up.
The injury came just as LAFC had fully taken hold of the game during a second half that saw them outshoot, outpossess, and outbattle the Galaxy in all areas of the pitch.
It seemed the only thing they couldn’t do was score, despite an immediate offensive injection from newly signed DP Brian Rodriguez, who came on for Vela to make his debut.
“Brian was good,” said Bradley. “You guys see that. He was confident, he went right at [Rolf] Feltscher on a couple plays right from the beginning.”
That ultimate prize of winning MLS Cup, rather than beating their local rivals, was what forced Bradley’s hand to sub Vela out but he remains hopeful that Vela’s injury isn’t anything serious — mentioning that despite the knocks his captain has taken so far in his MLS career, there hasn’t been anything beyond a little tightness.
“I don’t think it’s a real bad one, knock on wood but we weren’t taking any chances,” said Bradley, hitting the table in the press conference room. “We have a great performance staff, a great medical staff, so we see how it feels.”