View Original Notice ? LAFC rolling without dominant version of Carlos Vela
Carlos Vela dropped a hat trick on the Colorado Rapids in a season-opening 3-0 victory at home in late February.
The Major League Soccer single-season record holder for goals has scored only once during Los Angeles Football Club’s 11 matches since.
Considering the prolific statistics the 33-year-old LAFC star forward has been responsible for during the club’s first four seasons, his ongoing drought (eight consecutive scoreless matches offset, somewhat, by three assists in that span) could have signaled mixed results to begin year five.
Yet this version of LAFC (7-1-2, 23 points) is proving that Vela, three seasons removed from his stellar form as the MLS MVP, doesn’t need to dominate on the score sheet for his team to compile positive results.
Though he set a high bar with his second career hat trick against the Rapids in the opener, Vela’s output has stalled while the team’s results continue to trend in the right direction.
When he stepped into the job, first-year head coach Steven Cherundolo aimed to use upward of 16 players in regular rotation, including midfielder Latif Blessing and Vela, who are the two last remaining names from LAFC’s inaugural 2018 season; a veteran contingent of newcomers with MLS experience and life in their legs; and a talented nucleus that remained from the Bob Bradley years.
The team’s overall strength, more than the contributions of any single player, has provided the Black & Gold with repeated opportunities to close out matches.
Prior to the start of the season, Vela weighed the roster construction and embraced the role of a facilitator rather than a goal-hungry attacker.
Since the ninth-place Rapids (3-4-3) lost at Banc of California Stadium on Feb. 26, LAFC’s all-hands-on-deck approach has turned into a reality.
“I won’t even call them ‘bench.’ They’re solutions to the games,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who was traded from Colorado to LAFC after helping the Rapids win the MLS Western Conference in 2021, said of his teammates.
“For all of us it’s been a positive first quarter of the season,” he said. “Moving forward we’ve got to keep growing. Keep building. And we can’t be content with what we’re doing right now because we know we have a higher ceiling and a lot of room to improve.”
Boasting a 9-1-2 record in all competitions, good for an early lead in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race, LAFC’s strong play midway through the busiest month of the year places the club in Denver on Saturday.
Colorado is unbeaten in a franchise-record 21 consecutive matches on its mile-high field, and in seven league contests between the teams the home side has won six times. LAFC returns to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the first time since a Decision Day loss ended a playoff-less 2021 season.
The Rapids bring an air of uncertainty as their roster has undergone numerous changes, including adding American international Gyasi Zardes to its attack in April.
LAFC at COLORADO RAPIDS
When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
TV/Radio: Univision, TUDN, Twitter / 710 AM, 980 AM