Los Angeles FC: Carlos Vela is the real deal

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - DECEMBER 20: Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad looks on during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad and Sevilla at Estadio de Anoeta on December 20, 2017 in San Sebastian, . (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - DECEMBER 20: Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad looks on during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad and Sevilla at Estadio de Anoeta on December 20, 2017 in San Sebastian, . (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

In their first MLS fixture of their existence, Los Angeles FC shocked the Seattle Sounders at Century Link Field. There was one major reason why: Carlos Vela. The face of the franchise proved that he is the real deal.

Denilson. Rafael Marquez. Frank Lampard. All designated players for their respective clubs. All flops. Now, these are of the ageing variety, drawing towards the end of their careers. The hefty paycheck, the soft American lifestyle. There is no guarantee that they ever had any intention of working hard. But they do prove a point: Designated players are not certain.

In theory, signing a multi-faceted player who has enjoyed success in several other leagues, primarily in Europe, sounds like a sensible idea. They are of a better quality of MLS. They have a wealth of experience. They understand the culture of the game and the importance of the dressing room. But in practice, it is a far more unpredictable venture.

Related Story: Seattle Sounders Vs LAFC: 5 things we learned

So as Los Angeles FC set out on their MLS adventure on Sunday, hoping to secure an unlikely victory at the Seattle Sounders, one of the league’s most prestigious and prolifically successful teams with a raucous home crowd, all eyes turned to Carlos Vela, the face of the franchise, the man on which their hopes were pinned, the leader of the dressing room, the inspiration of the team. Good news, then, that the Mexican stood head and shoulders above the rest as his rookie team battled their way to an unlikely 1-0 victory.

Many will choose to focus on Vela’s contribution to the only goal of the game: a sliding reverse pass that dissected the Seattle defence, perfectly weighted for Diego Rossi, who made the outside-to-in run throughout the match and looked especially spritely in the first half, to curl a lovely, bending shot into the far corner without even breaking stride. But, for me, it was his play in the second half, as the Sounders piled on the pressure, that was so impressive and so important.

More from MLS Multiplex

LAFC were struggling. They could not release their play in wide areas, they could not hold onto possession in the midfield, they could not relieve themselves at any point, relentlessly repelling the waves and waves of Seattle attacks. That was other than when Vela received the ball.

Specifically, it was his ability to dribble with the football, shielding it from the defenders around him, positioning his body brilliantly to protect and preserve, and then many times, winning the foul, giving a breather to his defenders, allowing LAFC to push up the pitch a little, something that they crucially needed to do.

His dribbling ability very nearly created the second goal in the first half, skipping by Roman Torres with ease before wildly lashing over the crossbar, and he perhaps deserved a penalty in the second half, showing a good turn of speed before being hacked down from behind. Somewhat unbelievably, no penalty was awarded and VAR did not even look at the incident. But Vela’s quality was there on full show.

Next: Philadelphia Union: 3 things we learned in Revolution win

And for Bob Bradley and LAFC, they will need Vela to be at his best if they are to enjoy a successful season. In one game, he proved that he is the real deal. But now, the hard work starts. Replication and consistency is king in this league, and Vela is just getting started.