After much anticipation, the news is here: Carlos Vela will not play in the MLS is Back Tournament.
The news came down Monday morning, with the Los Angeles Football Club player reportedly opting out for family reasons. Vela’s wife is pregnant and the couple have a 3-year-old son, the news first reported by Kevin Baxter in the Los Angeles Times, citing an anonymous source.
Vela himself confirmed it in a statement through LAFC Monday afternoon:
“I would like nothing more than to be with my teammates in Orlando. I always want to give everything I have to my Club, our fans and supporters and the city of L.A. However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy. I will miss being with my teammates and coaches, but I will be cheering and supporting LAFC from a distance. I can’t wait to be back on the field, playing for all of you and accomplishing great things with our Club. Vamos LAFC!”
LAFC general manager John Thorrington also issued a statement through the club:
“LAFC fully supports and respects the difficult decision Carlos and his family have made to not participate in the MLS Is Back Tournament. We have had numerous conversations with Carlos throughout this process and understand his unique situation and the importance of Carlos being home with his family at this time. We appreciate the support from the league, and we look forward to having Carlos re-join the Club when we return from Orlando and begin moving forward with the rest of the season.”
The news seemed quite likely, but with Vela training throughout this stretch to prepare for the league’s restart tournament in Orlando, scheduled to take place Wed.-Aug. 11, the door appeared to be open he would end up traveling and playing.
On the field, this is a blow for both LAFC and MLS. As the reigning MLS MVP, sitting out the tournament removes major star power and name recognition, and LAFC’s status as runaway favorite (even if that was overblown anyway) takes a hit.
Off the field, you really can’t blame Vela. In addition to his familial concerns at present, the growing number of positive coronavirus tests inside the MLS bubble in Orlando, in addition to the raging infection numbers in the state of Florida overall, means there is a major risk associated with going. Sure, athletes are young and generally healthier than the rest of us, but even without the baby on the way, it’s worth taking a long, hard look at the situation, and I don’t begrudge Vela at all.
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley also backed Vela’s decision, telling reporters on a conference call Monday, “I just want to reinforce that I stand 100% behind Carlos, that it’s important for him to be with his family right now, we’ve talked about it within the team.”
“The rest of the coaching staff, all his teammates feel exactly the same way. And we always have a mentality that that we do what’s best for players, we do what’s best for families, and that doesn’t change how we approach stepping on the field and trying to be at our best every time we get the chance, so that’s the way we’re all thinking about it.”
With Vela out of action for more than a month, Bradley was asked what the player will do in Los Angeles, and the coach said he will continue to train to retain some fitness, ahead of a possible resumption of games locally this year.
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