LAFC’s Carlos Vela revels in stardom pathway

The journey of Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) all-everything player Carlos Vela to where receives top billing attention is a long and fruitful one. Vela has come a long way from his Mexican upbringing. His story is unique in that Vela’s pathway to soccer stardom was paved by his father who played and had to retire from the sport from an injury he suffered.

With that component of his life in play, Vela eventually became immersed in the soccer world. He was discovered by Jose Louis Real and found his way to joining a local team in Mexico. From there, Vela’s career took an unspectacular rise as he bounced from one squad to another. The bumpy road to superstar soccer player turned for Vela when he got in on his first World Cup in 2010.

Los Angeles Football Club forward Carlos Vela
Los Angeles Football Club forward Carlos Vela in action against the New England Revolution in an LAFC preseason game on April 3, 2021. Photo credit: LAFC

Today, Vela is the toast of LAFC and Major League Soccer (MLS). The 32-year-old forward from Cancun, Mexico, and LAFC officially kick off their season on April 17 against Austin FC. Vela and LAFC are hoping 2021 have better results than in 2020 in which the team finished seventh in the MLS Western Conference standings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vela has been with LAFC for three seasons. In 2021, This season will be Vela’s fourth with the ballclub. The team is going to need every ounce of the 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP to do his thing. In 2019, Vela scored an MLS-record 34 goals. Last season, Vela played just seven games and scored four goals.

LAFC is hopeful that Vela can duplicate the magic he had two years ago this season. Vela became the first player in the history of the franchise to tagged with the

“It is very special for me to be the first Designated Player in LAFC history,” Vela said.  “I’m honored to be here and to begin my new adventure playing for the people of Los Angeles.”

Just who is Carlos Vela? What does he mean to MLS and the greater soccer community? Well, we’re going to tell his story to you. Vela plays winger for LAFC and the Mexico National League. When Vela first played professional football he started his career at a Mexican club Guadalajara. Later on, Vela caught his eye on different European teams and finished the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup as a top scorer. 

After joining Guadalajara at a young age, Vela joined Arsenal in 2005. While he was still with Arsenal, he was loaned to three different Spanish teams. The teams that he was loaned to are Celta, Salamanca and Osasuna. When Vela was loaned with Celta, he failed to get playing time. However, he saw a little bit of game action with Salamanca and Osasuna while being loaned from Arsenal.

While with Salamanca, Vela managed to score three goals and played 33 games. After the expiration of the loan with Salamanca, there were bigger Spanish clubs like Levante, Osasuna and Almeria that were interested in loaning out Vela while he couldn’t play with Arsenal. Vela could not play because he had not received a work permit to play with Arsenal.     

Los Angeles Football Club forward Carlos Vela in action against the New England Revolution in an LAFC preseason game on April 3, 2021. Photo credit: LAFC

In 2008, Vela was granted a work permit that allowed him to play in England. In a new season, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger confirmed that Vela would be part of the first team. On Aug. 31, 2008, Vela made his debut against Newcastle. In March 2009, Vela scored his first goal facing Burnley in the FA Cup (Football Association Challenge Cup).

Two months later, Vela scored his first Premier League goal against Portsmouth making Vela the second Mexican player to score goals in the Premier League. Vela scored two UEFA Champions League goals when Arsenal played Braga and defeated them 6-0. Vela scored a hat-trick against Sheffield United in the League Cup and it was voted to be one of Arsenal’s 50 best goals of all time. 

In January 2011, Vela was loaned to West Bromwich until the end of the 2010-11 season. His first game with West Bromwich was against  Wigan Athletic. 

After getting loaned to West Bromwich in the 2010-11 season, Vela got loaned to a Spanish club called Real Sociedad. It is the third Spanish team that Vela was loaned out. Vela started 29 matches, scoring 12 goals and 7 assists. After getting more playing time with Real Sociedad Vela said,“I don’t want to return to Arsenal. I have asked my agent to negotiate with Arsenal to stay here”, according to People Pill. 

After having a successful loan with Real Sociedad, Vela appeared over 30 games in every competition and scored 12 goals and was permanently transferred to Real Sociedad after the 2011-12 season ended. 

In 2013-14, Vela, appeared in 50 matches (45 starts) including six Champions League matches, scoring 19 goals and 12 assists across all competitions. While Vela was at Real Sociedad, he was Player of the Year in the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons. While competing in the Champions League playoff round, Vela scored two goals against Olympique Lyonnais to help the team qualify to the Champions League for the first time in 10 years.

On June 24, Vela signed a 4-year contract that can make him stay with the team until 2018. Around the 2014-15 season, Vela suffered a knee injury and did not play from January to March. He also appeared in 30 games scoring 10 goals. In the 2015-16 season, he played 32 games and scored 5 goals. In his final season after the 2015-16 season, Vela played 35 games and scored 10 goals. Vela scored his third goal in his final game with Real Sociedad in a 3-1 victory against Sevilla. 

When Vela made a  decision to join LAFC, he thought he was looking for another choice because he thought he was going to have a terrible manager with the club. His new coach would be USA coach Bob Bradley. Vela also had broken records playing with LAFC. In his first season playing with LAFC, Vela was Named to MLS Team of the Week (Weeks 2, 5, 7, 8, 27, 33); Player of the Week (Week 33).”

Vela was voted captain in the MLS All-Star against Juventus. Vela started 26 of 28 games played in the regular season, scoring 14 goals. He was selected as the MLS Best XI in 2018 and 2019.   

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