As most defences in the MLS know this season, you can’t keep a good man down – especially when that man in question is Mexican hitman Carlos Vela. Deadly Vela leads the goal scoring charts for league leaders LAFC – he has rifled home 19 strikes — and has caused rival back lines all sorts of problems this campaign.
But one man who can, and has, kept former Arsenal striker Vela down is coach Bob Bradley. But don’t think for one moment that Bradley has axed his supreme goal-getter — rather he has rested him given that the marksman has played all but around 10 minutes of the season so far.
Given that Bradley’s men won their latest league outing and maintain their position at the top of the pile, it has proved to be an excellent decision. So, rather than call on benched Vela should his side need his prowess in front of goal at Houston Dynamo, Bradley had the luxury of allowing him to recharge his batteries as his team-mates went about chalking up yet another triumph.
Ahead of the fixture, Bradley said:
“Carlos Vela has been so strong so it’s not like after one game we think ‘Oh ok, we’ve been doing all this and he’s slowed down. We have an excellent performance staff. We monitor the players throughout. We’ll continue to assess where he is physically.”
And he hinted that rest would come Vela’s way – as indeed it did — when he added:
“We’ll rotate most of the players and play against a good Houston team that has a good record at home but still try to do the things we do all the time. Try to find the right ways to control the game. Try to find the right ways to create advantages. It’s a good opportunity for the players.”
LAFC did trail initially when Romell Quioto notched but the advantage couldn’t be added to and the visitors turned the screw. Adama Diomande bagged his first MLS double of the year before Diego Rossi wrapped thing up nicely with a third. Yet, as was seen midweek, LAFC are not invincible. They succumbed to a demoralising 1-0 defeat at home to Portland Timbers in the US Open Cup with Jeremy Ebobisse, the France-born attacker who has been capped by America, grabbing the goal that did the damage.
Next up is the slight matter of the Los Angeles derby when Bradley’s side go to LA Galaxy on Saturday with the third-placed hosts in no mood to pave the way for their city rivals to continue their march to the league title. But surely it is their destiny; they are 11 points ahead of Seattle Sounders, who are in second place, and 12 points better off than Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s men.