When LAFC take the field in Tuesday's first leg against Leon (10 pm ET | FS2), it will mark the first time Vela has taken the field for a competitive game in his home country at the club level. While the 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP has 72 senior caps for Mexico's national team, he left the Chivas Guadalajara academy at 16 for Arsenal and spent the rest of his professional career overseas before joining LAFC, making Tuesday's match the first time he'll play on his home soil not representing the national team.
While Vela hasn't made an appearance for El Tri since 2018, the threat he poses isn't lost on Leon manager Nacho Ambriz, who told reporters leading up to the CCL series he still considers his upcoming CCL foe the best Mexican player in the game at the moment.
"For me, he's the best player Mexico has right now," Ambriz said, via the Los Angeles Times. "I admire him as a player. He's outstanding. In any moment he can swing a game in his favor. At any moment he can make an assist."
Vela, of course, is coming off arguably the most dominant single season in MLS history that saw him post 34 goals and 15 assists while leading LAFC to the Supporters' Shield. As he looks to replicate that brilliance in 2020, Vela said he's relishing the opportunity to start out by putting on a good show in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd at Leon's Estadio Leon.
"I can lose some games but not in my country," Vela said. "I want to win so I can say to my Mexican friends, 'Hey, I won in my country.' I just really want to show how good I am and how my football is because they don't have a chance to see me every season or [see] my evolution."