The Colorado Rapids haven’t faced LAFC since October 2019, when Carlos Vela scored a hat trick to lead his side to a 3-1 win. This year, Los Angeles have just one point in their last three matches while the Rapids are on a three-game winning streak. I caught up with Alicia Rodriguez of Angels on Parade to see what’s going on with Vela and what we can expect this weekend.
Burgundy Wave: Carlos Vela made an appearance against Seattle last week after being out with a quad injury. How did he do and do you think he’ll be back to the starting XI this week?
Angels on Parade: Vela came off the bench for 20 minutes against the Sounders, after missing the previous three games, and I’d say he was fine. LAFC were already down and the desperation had already kind of set in, and the Sounders’ defense is stellar in that game state and so Vela found tough sledding in getting on the ball and finding chances down the stretch. He got on the ball a couple times but it was a tough spot and he didn’t make any of his trademark magic.
I’m of two minds about Vela’s availability for Saturday’s game. It’s possible that he could start, but I think it’s more likely he’ll come off the bench, either for 30 or 45 minutes, after Bob Bradley hinted about limiting minutes this week. Bradley is usually straightforward when he discusses these things when asked directly, so I think it could go either way but I’m leaning towards Vela being a second-half sub against the Rapids.
BW: LAFC have been struggling this season — what’s going on and what will it take to turn things around?
AoP: The biggest issue early on this season has been the attack is suddenly sputtering. LAFC have racked up the goals since entering MLS, usually leading the league in scoring, and have the two most recent MLS Golden Boot winners in Vela and Diego Rossi. However, Vela has missed most of the season so far, playing only about 40 minutes all season, while Rossi missed the first two games with an injury. They have five goals in five games, and their shutout against the Sounders was the first since last September.
I think the hope is that Vela and Rossi being back and finding form will fix most of this issue. A lot of fans are getting antsy over the third forward spot often being occupied by either Corey Baird, Danny Musovski or Kwadwo Opoku for the moment. Opoku suffered a knee injury so he’s likely out, but I actually think Baird and Musovski can do their part *if* Vela and Rossi are clicking. But first things first, let’s see if the stars can shine and if they can, then this growing concern over a lack of goals will likely go away.
BW: On that same note, what have opposing teams been doing well that has exposed LAFC’s weaknesses?
AoP: LAFC have played the Sounders twice so far this season, and not to make excuses but I think they have the smartest defense in MLS, so they’ve had some tough games so far. But aside from the problems in attack, LAFC’s breakdowns this year are largely due to individual mistakes. A player turns over a ball in midfield and it leads to an opponent’s goal, or for example, in El Trafico center back Jesus David Murillo tried to dribble out of pressure deep in LAFC’s end and that led to the Galaxy’s game-winner. Perfection is an elusive goal, but LAFC has always been pretty shaky when an opponent attacks early and often. I think their defense has actually been sound overall this season, we wouldn’t be fixating on the defense if the team were scoring at a normal clip, but inside a game, sometimes a defensive breakdown costs a team the game and LAFC have certainly shown, this year and over their history, that they can get got at times.
Read my responses to Alicia’s questions on Angels on Parade.