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Carlos Vela leads LAFC in 4-1 thumping of Seattle Sounders

LOS ANGELES — Carlos Vela will receive most of the praise for Los Angeles FC’s 4-1 thumping of the Seattle Sounders (5-1-1, 16 points) to solidify its hold on the top of the Western Conference. However, Vela didn’t do it all alone. LAFC (7-1-1, 22 points) put its crisp ball movement on full display in front of the announced 22,221 in attendance for the Sunday match at Banc of California Stadium.

In the 55th minute, Vela brought in a pass from midfielder Eduard Atuesta and slipped past Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. He found the net for his second goal of the day and his 10th of the season. Immediately, the 3252 supporter’s section erupted in an “M-V-P” chant. Normally, it’d be absurd to talk about the Most Valuable Player award in April, but Vela’s play has been just that: absurd.

Last season, Vela notched 14 goals and 13 assists. He was already considered one of the best players in Major League Soccer. In just nine contests in 2019, Vela has 10 goals and five assists. At 1.11 goals per game, Vela is currently on pace for 37 goals this season. In 2018, Atlanta United FC forward and league MVP Josef Martinez set the MLS single-season record at 31 goals.

“Carlos, look he’s so talented,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said after the match. “And you know all this bit about him and ‘he doesn’t really like football that much’? Listen, he’s so excited coming off the field on a day like today. Not only for the fact that he scores, but for the kind of football we play as a team and everything else.”

Mark-Anthony Kaye led the passing charge for LAFC, assisting three goals to add to the two he had entering Sunday. He gifted Vela his first golden opportunity in the 12th minute, launching a through-ball from midfield that landed perfectly at the captain’s toes. Vela converted with the calm and timing one would expect, launching a left-footed shot past Frei.

“I say a lot of times, I love to have Mark in my back because he does everything,” Vela said of Kaye. “It’s not about the passes. He’s like always helping the attacking three. He’s always in a good flow to help in any part of the field.”

Kaye was also instrumental in putting the game out of reach for LAFC. He assisted midfielder Eduard Atuesta in the 39th minute and fed forward Christian Ramirez on a give-and-go in the 61st minute to give his team a 4-1 lead, which it would maintain until the final whistle. It was Ramirez’s second goal of the season.

Despite his all-encompassing presence in Sunday’s game, Kaye is still not satisfied with his overall performance.

“I’m very hard on myself,” Kaye said. “So, I don’t think it was my best game in an LAFC jersey. But, I think obviously it’s nice to get three assists. It’s nice to contribute to the team like that.”

Atuesta has worn many hats for the LAFC this season; engine, creator and defender. On Sunday against the Sounders, he added goal-scoring to his list of duties after he sent a rocket beyond the reach of Stefan Frei to give LAFC a 2-0 lead before halftime.

The goal perfectly encapsulated the 21-year-old’s versatility. It came moments after a string of ferocious defending, in which he helped win back possession for LAFC. After scoring, the first man to congratulate Atuesta was none other than Vela.

LAFC extended its home winning streak to five games.

After entering Sunday as the league’s lone remaining undefeated squad, the Sounders will look to rebound from their first loss of the season. And they won’t have to wait long for redemption. LAFC visits CenturyLink Field in Seattle for a 3:30 p.m ET match next Sunday.

“With all the great things Seattle has done, I have tremendous respect and admiration,” Bradley said. “But next week’s going to be a different game, probably because guess what? It’s going to be on turf. They’re all going to be pissed at me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.”

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