Carlos Vela had a hand — more accurately, a foot — in more than half of LAFC’s goals in the 2019 Major League Soccer season. But however many games the club will play in the MLS is Back Tournament beginning this week in Orlando, they’ll have to generate scoring without the league’s reigning MVP.
Vela has opted out of competing, according to the Los Angeles Times. The league gave players the option not to compete for health or family reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vela did participate in training once teams were allowed to return to work in June. But his wife is pregnant, and he made the decision to remain home with her and their 3-year-old son.
"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," Vela said in a statement later Monday. "I will miss being with my teammates and coaches, but I will be cheering and supporting LAFC from a distance."
OTHER ATHLETES OPTING OUTMLB | NBA
MLS has created a “bubble” environment at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and adjacent Disney resort properties and has actively tested players, coaches and officials for the novel coronavirus; several members of FC Dallas and Nashville SC have tested positive, but that lifted the total to 18 players and six staff members out of 668 total. Since arrival in Orlando, only two of 329 people tested have turned up positive.
The good news for the league is that the biggest-name offseason signing, Chicharito Hernandez of the Los Angeles Galaxy, has said he will participate in the MLS is Back Tournament. Chicharito has scored more goals for the Mexico national team than any player in history. With 52 goals in 109 caps, he ranks 48th all time in men’s international goals.
Vela’s 34 goals last season were a league record. He helped LAFC accumulate 72 regular-season points and claim the Supporters’ Shield, though they lost in the Western Conference finals and fell short of claiming MLS Cup. He scored twice in MLS games before the coronavirus shutdown in March, as well as twice in CONCACAF Champions League games.