Last season, it was commonly expected that one player, Carlos Vela, would dominate Los Angeles Football Club.
That sentiment was for a good reason.
The Mexican international had substantial street credibility with his time in La Liga as well as his exploits with El Tri.
And last season, those sentiments were backed up with 15 goals in all competitions over 48 matches along with 11 assists for the Black-and-Gold.
But, this season may be something different.
As illustrated in LAFC’s 4-1 pasting of Portland at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday, where Vela showed a lot of versatility in notching a pair of assists to go along with his goal in the 68th minute, this team seems to be adding more players to the mix.
Does that mean this team can be considered more diverse than last season?
While we are only two matches into the season, thus far that answer appears to be a resounding ‘yes.’
Five different players have scored for LAFC in the first two matches – Adama Diomande, Vela, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Diego Rossi and Christian Ramirez.
While that doesn’t seem like a ton (or even a big difference), consider the squad scored more goals in their first two matches last season (6) and had one fewer name on the score sheet.
Even the assists have been spread out. Even though Vela has two, Diomande, Eduard Atuesta and Jordan Harvey each have one as well.
It may seem like a thin thread in terms of team diversity, but I think it speaks to a broader future related to how this team is going to play this season.
I think we can expect the same kind of excitement from last season, but I fully expect to see even more players become involved.
Players like Lee Nguyen, Atuesta, Latif Blessing, Andre Horta (when he returns from injury), Niko Hamalainen, Walker Zimmerman, Peter-Lee Vassell and Steven Beitashour will likely get involved offensively for LAFC.
So where does Vela fit?
Good question. I am glad you asked.
While being a potent goal-scorer, Vela’s biggest contribution to this team is as its leader.
"I'm trying to be the leader of the team everyday. That's why I came here."— LAFC (@LAFC) March 11, 2019
Captain Carlos after our 4-1 win against the Timbers. pic.twitter.com/0j5nIGLIXm
We saw that mantle picked up a bit last season when Laurent Ciman moved on, but now we can see a full season under Vela’s field leadership and what that could mean for this club.
LAFC players look up to Vela and for a good reason (see my street creds comment above). Putting this team under his guidance on the field for a full season, I expect, will pay big dividends in the long run.
While he isn’t a vocal kind of leader, he is a leader by example.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. Vela isn’t the only potential leader on this team. I would argue that for a team to be truly successful, it needs more than one.
It will be important that, as this team grows in its diversity, it’s leaders do as well (I’m looking at you Beitashour, Kaye and Zimmerman).
To suggest that this team isn’t going to have to overcome some kind of hurdles during the grueling Major League Soccer season is short-sighted. Injuries and just the length of the campaign will be enough.
That means it will take different leaders to step up.
But, I have to applaud the diversity I’ve seen from this team so far. And, Vela has been an integral part of that, to his credit.
M.A. Clark writes Black & Gold View weekly for angelsonparade.com. If you have a topic or question you would like him to address, just comment below.
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