Minutes into the second half of LAFC’s contest with Orlando City on Saturday, a familiar figure made his way down the touchline. He wore an orange mesh bib over his No. 10 jersey. The Supporters in Banc of California Stadium’s North End momentarily took their attention away from the match to acknowledge a player they hadn’t seen in just over a month.
“We want Vela. We want Vela.”
Originating in the North End, the chants quickly rippled throughout the entire stadium.
“That was really nice. I just want to say thank you for that welcome,” Carlos Vela said at training following LAFC’s 4-1 win over Orlando City. “It’s always good to be at home like that. The fans show me the love, and I am happy because I love LAFC fans and the Club.”
Vela arrived from Russia three days before the Orlando City match. After taking a day off to recover from the flight, the forward trained just one day with his teammates after his return.
At the World Cup, Vela started all four of Mexico’s matches, including the 1-0 victory over Germany and the decisive 2-0 loss to Brazil that knocked El Tri out of the tournament. In that match, Vela played from whistle to whistle. He finished the World Cup with one goal, only the second non-US player in MLS’ history to score at a World Cup.
“I think it’s a big moment for Mexico and for me. I just want to thank everybody who supported Mexico and me,” Vela said when asked about his World Cup. “I hope you enjoyed. Of course, it was not the tournament that we expected, but we tried. We did our best. I hope they enjoyed with me.”
In the five matches LAFC played without Vela, the Club continued much of its winning ways, taking three points in three of the five, losing one, and settling for a disappointing last-minute draw in Houston a day before Vela's return to the US. Although he was nearly halfway around the world, Vela said he kept tabs on his teammates all throughout the World Cup.
“I’m always looking for my team and for my teammates. I always try to be in touch with the guys and with my teammates,” Vela said. “I’m always trying to get some luck for the team. Always texting, ‘you are doing well, keep working.’ And, ‘this is the way.’ I think we are a team. This is a strong team we have. We are all in the same direction. We are trying to do big things”
Entering the pitch in the 64th minute on Saturday, Vela and co. would kill off the match with Orlando City behind a pair of goals two minutes apart in the 82nd and 84th minute. The 4-1 victory was LAFC’s second consecutive by the same scoreline at Banc of California Stadium, and the fifth win in a row at home in all competitions.
Back with the Club and his teammates, Vela said the goal remains the same.
“I know the team is doing really well without me. I hope with me, we can still go the same way, and we can finish really strong in the League.
“I hope we can fight for titles.”