LOS ANGELES — LAFC attacker Carlos Vela feels his new club is “in a good way” but acknowledged that there is still much work to be done ahead of the team’s inaugural season.
Vela scored twice in LAFC’s 4-4 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday as the expansion team came back from a two-goal halftime deficit.
The Mexico international opened the scoring in the third minute with a sparkling free kick, and then added a second half penalty. Vela played mostly as a No. 10 behind a front three of Latif Blessing, Marco Ureña, and Diego Rossi, and showed a good understanding with his teammates.
The result was tempered, however, by the fact that LAFC was fielding its first-choice lineup, while Vancouver’s starting XI was comprised mostly of reserves. For that reason, the Mexico international knows his side needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
“It was a crazy game,” he told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. “We have to work, we have to be stronger because we conceded a lot of goals and it’s difficult to win a game like that.
“Of course, it’s difficult because we start from nothing. We have to build how we can play, how we want to play, and we are in a good way. But of course we have a lot of things we have to improve, and I hope we can be ready for the start of the season.”
The team has been together for just over a month, and it has a manager in Bob Bradley who is well versed in the challenges faced by expansion sides. It was Bradley who led the Chicago Fire to a MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in its inaugural season back in 1998.
“[Bradley] knows the league, and how to make a new team,” said Vela. “He’s doing a great job, giving us the basic things to be a team, and we are working to do the ‘Bob’ concept and I hope we show a different game and we can be a strong team. We want to start the league in a good position.”
Vela did add he has been encouraged by what he has seen in such a short timeframe, and that the players are doing their utmost to build chemistry.
“Every day is better,” he said. “Of course, we need confidence to talk and see how you are, where you live, where you’re from. We have to start like you’re in school where you have to meet all of your new friends.
“And we are building towards being a good team. That’s the important things, we have to know each other and how to be in the same way.”
Vela is also aware of how much LAFC is depending on him to find success this season.
“It’s a big responsibility for me,” he said. “I feel like I have to well because my teammates expect a lot from me. That’s my work, and if I’m doing good then the team can be a great team.”
Meanwhile, Vela attended the NBA All-Star weekend for the first time and declared himself a No. 1 fan of LeBron James, even if he preferred when the Cavaliers’ superstar played for the Miami Heat.
“I’m enjoying the show,” he told AS Mexico. “It’s a beautiful experience. I always had to watch it on TV and it’s great to be here. I hope I can come to more events like this one.
“I really like basketball, I’ve always said that I would one thousand times rather watch a basketball game than a soccer one.”
The Cancun-born Vela added: “I’ve always liked Miami [Heat] because it’s close to Cancun and I’ve had the opportunity to watch many of their games. But I’m a LeBron fan. Wherever he goes, I go. I’m with LeBron team all the way!”
ESPN FC contributor Adriana Garcia contributed to this report.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.