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Bob Bradley takes responsibility for and defends early Carlos Vela sub in LAFC win

Unusual situation but they still got the win.

MLS: Austin FC at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Even over the zoom press conference after LAFC’s 2-0 win over Austin FC to open the 2021 season on Saturday, Pablo Sisniega sounded different.

The goalkeeper had an uncharacteristically scratchy voice postgame, and admitted that the fans in attendance at Banc of California Stadium, for the first time in over a year, pushed his voice beyond its limit.

“Having the fans back made a difference, and I lost my voice a little bit because of that,” Sisniega told reporters. “It’s obviously awesome to have them back. It makes my job of communicating a little bit harder, but it makes everything else easier and a lot better.”

LAFC got the win due to Sisniega’s three saves and goals from Corey Baird and substitute Jose Cifuentes. While it was a solid team performance, that was largely overshadowed by one of the most unusual substitutions you’ll see.

Carlos Vela exited the game after just 20 minutes, the superstar stretching on a pass in Austin’s box and not able to get to it. He asked to be examined and it appeared he may have suffered a quad injury. Before Vela could get back on the field, Mahala Opoku was subbed into the match, and Vela attempted to re-enter the game, only to be told his day was done.

A few minutes after that, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley admitted during an in-game interview there had been a miscommunication with Vela, and after the game, Bradley both took responsibility for perhaps moving too soon to make a change, and said he was comfortable making it in case Vela has a legitimate injury.

“The Carlos situation: You know I said on the interview, maybe I jumped the gun,” Bradley explained to reporters. “When he went off the field, he had a look and he gave me a little indication and then he came over and it was almost like he wanted to try [to play again]. We still need to get to the bottom of it, there might be just a little knot in there. So exactly what it means from here, hard to say. But like I said, the way he went off the field, my understanding at that moment was, he needed to come off and so those things happen.”

Vela’s exit was compounded by the absence of reigning MLS Golden Boot holder Diego Rossi, who had a hamstring injury and the Uruguayan has been almost automatic in the lineup over the years.

Vela initially went into the locker room when he was subbed out, before coming back out and watching the game on the bench and Bradley was asked if he and the Mexican star hashed things out at halftime.

“Of course, there’s no issues and if he gives a little bit of a look like ‘I need to come off’ and then he comes over and at the last second says, ‘No, let me try,’ it’s too late at that point. So I told him quickly, he needed to come off. I take responsibility, sorry about that. And halftime I checked on him and said, ‘Look, hopefully it’s okay, we’re still checking that part out.’ So there’s nothing more to say. I can take responsibility if I make a move too fast, so there’s no problem for me saying that I jumped the gun on that one, but it happens.”

In the end, LAFC had enough firepower to see off Austin, making their MLS debut in the match, and hopefully Vela and Rossi are healthy and available again soon. And hopefully Sisniega’s voice will recover before next week’s game against the Seattle Sounders.

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