For all coaches focus on lineups, tactics and situational awareness, sometimes the game is as simple as an incredible player making an incredible play.
"All you should be allowed to ask me about, and all you should be allowed to write about is the goal," Bradley said of Vela's stunning 44th-minute chip over goalkeeper Luis Robles. "Because when you come to see football and the game is determined on a play like that, which was a combination of determination, the people around them, strength, and holding guys off, and still with an idea of how he could get away, the position of the goalkeeper, and to finish it off with that delicate chip-in, that was just incredible."
In a match coming less than 72 hours after a Vela-led LAFC defeated Liga MX's Club Leon 3-0 to take their Concacaf Champions League series 3-2 on aggregate, Bradley said he never considered using Vela in a bench role on the playmaker's 31st birthday.
"As we were discussing squad rotation, the discussion I had with him about how we felt was never really going to be in his mind that he was not starting today in our home opener," Bradley said. "So, that’s just mentality that he brings and the example that he sets.”
🔁 Carlos Vela GOLAZO on repeat 🔁 pic.twitter.com/YbtUipqDrU— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 2, 2020
Vela entered 2020 with the unenviable task of somehow living up to the incredibly lofty bar he set in 2019 with the single best individual offensive season in MLS history. Vela broke the MLS record by scoring 34 goals and also had 15 assists while helping LAFC set an MLS record for points in a season while winning the Supporters' Shield.
But even though Miami was playing its first-ever competitive match, this was never going to be an easy affair following the intensity of the CCL three days prior. Kenneth Vermeer had easily his best day in an LAFC jersey, making seven saves to preserve his second consecutive clean sheet and first-ever in MLS play.
“[Kenneth Vermeer is] a world-class goalie," LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said of the offseason arrival from Feyenoord. "I'm not surprised about anything that he’s done in the games because I’ve seen him do it in training but it’s a big plus having him back there, knowing that he’s able to keep some clean sheets for us.”
Diego Rossi was unlucky to have two goals rightly called back for offside. Still, he left Banc of California Stadium pleased with the attitude his side showed against a giant unknown in an expansion team, so close to playing a well-known threat in the arguably Mexico's most in-form side.
"The most important thing was the team’s mentality to focus on the league," Rossi said. "That was most important and I feel like that reflected on the field with the attitude we showed."