Carlos Vela’s hat trick and the return of LAFC

(News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) has a couple of weeks before they play their next home game at Banc of California Stadium. But if LAFC and Carlos Vela play the way they did in the team’s season opener, fans will be up for a wonderful treat.  

Yes, Major League Soccer (MLS) is back. And that means that LAFC and Vela are back as well.  In the 2022 MLS Opener, Vela started well with the new season scoring a hat trick. With the hat trick that, Vela helped LAFC to register a 3-0 win against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Banc of California on Feb. 26.

Vela was named MLS Player of the Week, thanks to his hat trick against Colorado. Since his partnership with LAFC, Vela has recorded three hat tricks of his MLS career.  Vela’s feat was just the fifth hat trick ever recorded on MLS Opening Day.         

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Carlos Vela of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) scored three goals in the season opener for his team at Banc of California Stadium. Photo courtesy of LAFC

“I think we all know what he can do and he showed it again today,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “He worked very hard in pre-season to get to where he is today. That is a message that I’ve been very clear with him, our communication has been great, so he knows to be able to play like that he has to put in the work and he did.” 

Vela’s achievements should not be taken out of context or less celebrated because LAFC knotted a 1-1 tie with Portland in their last ballgame. Vela and LAFC pay a visit to Miami (March 12) before they return home to play Vancouver on March 20. With all of that said, looking back at Vela’s hat trick of soring all three goals for LAFC is still a special moment for the team as well as for the veteran player.  

“For us, there is a notable difference when Vela is on the team,” LAF midfielder Ilie Sanchez said after the game. “When you work defensively and get possession, you create chances, but the difference with this team is that you have someone like Carlos Vela to score goals. We want to take advantage of his quality and his work and we are happy to have him as a teammate. He has helped me in the locker room and it’s been great to have him as a leader.” 

In the first half of the game, LAFC had a total of nine shots attempted. Vela scored his first goal in the 29th minute making a penalty kick. Six minutes later, he completed his first-half brace with a breakaway goal. In the 50th minute, he scored a hat trick with a strong strike off his left, curled to the far post. It was Vela’s 60th goal of his career. 

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Carlos Vela of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) celebrates in his team’s 3-0 win against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 26, 2022. Photo courtesy of LAFC

Ironically, Vela scored his first hat trick since he did it in 2019 in a season finale against the Rapids.

With the way they shut out Colorado, expectations are going to be high this season for Vela and LAFC. If Vela is able to put all those nagging injuries that limited his play in 2020 and in 2021 behind him, there could be a chance that LAFC will be a better team this season.

Since LAFC began play in MLS in 2018, they have won every one of their opening games. Their overall MLS opening record is 5-0 after defeating Colorado.

Before LAFC fans get too happy, there is a reason for pause regarding Vela. Vela’s contract with the ballclub runs out in June, which is just a few months away. There’s no telling where Vela would go if his contract is allowed to expire. He could be a free agent, so LAFC needs to hurry and decide if they want to keep Vela for another couple of years.

But for now, LAFC and its fans will savor and appreciate great play from Vela and his teammates in the immediate future.

“We are trying to play as good as we can every single day,” Cherundolo said. “Failure means we are not maximizing our potential and that is what I strive to do every day with these players and that is my clear message to the guys. There is no reason to slow down, to let down, to take it easy. We should be pushing ourselves every day as long as it is physically possible of course, which is what we strive to do with this group.”