Tuesday night in León, LAFC embarks on its first Concacaf Champions League campaign. The contest between LAFC and the Liga MX side will be the Black & Gold's first competitive international match and its first against Mexican opposition. It will also be a first of sorts for its captain and reigning MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela.
The Cancun-native and El Tri standout will play the first professional club match of his career in Mexico.
Yup, you read that right. Vela has never played a club match in Mexico.
Despite coming up through Guadalajara's youth system, Vela's professional career started in Europe. A star of Mexico's 2005 U-17 World Cup-winning squad, Vela was off to the Premier League before he made a first-team appearance for Chivas.
After taking home the adidas Golden Boot as the leading scorer in the tournament in the summer of 2005, Arsenal purchased Vela from Chivas in November of the same year. He arrived in Europe in February of 2006 and spent 12 years abroad playing for various clubs but most notably for Real Sociedad in Spain.
While he's never played a professional club match in Mexico, Vela has had his fair share of success there. Vela debuted for the senior Mexican national team in 2007 - oddly enough, Vela first appearance for El Tri was in the U.S. and his first start and goal came across the way from Banc of Calfornia Stadium in the LA Coliseum.
In 2008, Vela played professionally on the international level for the first time in his home country. He scored in a World Cup qualifier against Belize in Mexico's Estadio Universitario Stadium in Nuevo León. Vela has featured for his country a total of 18 times in Mexico, 12 of which took place in the capital Mexico City.
In all, five of Vela's 19 goals for El Tri have been on Mexican soil - four in World Cup qualifiers and one in a friendly. His last appearance in Mexico was in the leadup to the 2018 World Cup. Vela assisted on Mexico's lone goal in a 1-0 win over Scotland in Mexico City on June 3, 2018.
In the summer of 2017, Vela agreed to join LAFC and, of course, you know the rest. Leading the Black & Gold to a Supporters' Shield trophy in 2019, Vela helped secure LAFC's place in the Concacaf Champions League, thus setting up his club debut in Mexico almost 15 years after he left for Europe.
The Black & Gold will be hoping he finds the net once again in his return.