Carlos Vela is back for El Trafico on Saturday and although he hasn’t played a match since March, he says he’s been pushing himself in training to be ready for the big moment on national TV (6 pm ET on FOX).
“Carlos is doing great,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “He gets so much credit for how hard he worked while we were away. He obviously always wants to be with the team and you can tell from his first day back in training how much it meant to him and he’s really motivated for this game.”
“Sometimes you have to decide and family is first. That’s why I made the decision, but I’m happy to be back,” Vela said.
“I’ve always said that people can have whatever opinion they want, positive or negative. They can take my decisions however they want,” he continued. “I did it because it was the best for my family and I’d do it again a million more times no matter what was said.”
Don’t doubt for a second that Vela comes into the restart of the season with the same lofty goals he had for his club at the start of training camp in January. He wasn’t mincing any words when he talked about LAFC's ambitions for 2020, no matter how, when or how many games are played in 2020.
“It’s a strange year and we don’t know exactly what will happen … but we’re ready for everything and we’re training hard,” Vela said. “We want to win. We feel we’re so close to getting a trophy for our club and if the league is playing a full season, for sure it will be a good opportunity for us and we’ll be fighting and waiting to get that trophy for us.
“I always say that it’s been two years we’ve been close to being able to win and we’re always missing something,” Vela said. “This year, anything outside of winning the title would be a failure for us and that’s the way we see it. We have the motivation that we believe that we’re one of the best teams in the league, if not the best, and among the teams that play the best. So we set the bar high. We want to win and it’s our objective to work until we achieve it.”
Vela has always played well against the rival LA Galaxy since the first-ever El Trafico derby match in 2018. He has scored 9 goals in six games, including their postseason matchup last year, but he’s expecting a reaction from the Galaxy after they dealt them a 6-2 loss at the MLS is Back Tournament.
“They have to show face after that game in Orlando,” Vela said. “They get back Jona [Dos Santos] who is the most important player they have on their team and that will make it so that their level [of play] increases. They’re going to be a better team and they’re going to be triply motivated to remove that thorn of the last game. It’s surely going to be a much more contested match and more complicated for us.”
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye noted how LAFC “got a lot of confidence getting out the game [in Orlando vs LA Galaxy] the way we did,” conceding that the Galaxy were the better team in the first half of that match on the back of an aggressive press and their strategy to clog up the middle of the field. Bradley said he expects the Galaxy to replicate that formula on Saturday and attempt to step up and pressure in order to create turnovers.
“Teams are looking to get tight to our midfielders, sometimes play man-to-man to disrupt the game, but also to try to create opportunities in transition,” Bradley said, “So that’s something we think about for most opponents, but for sure we think about that when we play the Galaxy.”