Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela has an MLS MVP Award on the shelf back home, and he enters Sunday's home game against the Philadelphia Union looking like a player intent on adding more hardware.
Vela not only scored the lone goal in LAFC's season-opening victory last weekend against Inter Miami CF, but he also had two goals a few days before that in his team's CONCACAF Champions League victory against Leon.
There is no telling what he might be able to do with a week's worth of rest as LAFC look to continue their positive start to the season.
"Carlos is still such a special player," coach Bob Bradley said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "He still has speed, he still has power. He's going to be able to continue doing that for more years. There's no question about that."
At 31, Vela still seems to have plenty of energy. His goal against Inter Miami came when he split two defenders, fought off a defensive challenge, then chipped a shot with his left foot over the outstretched arms of goaltender Luis Robles.
It was vintage Vela, as he has seamlessly transitioned into the 2020 season after tallying 34 goals and 15 assists in 31 MLS games last season.
It means the Union will have their hands full after a disappointing 2-0 defeat in their season opener last weekend at FC Dallas. The Union's defense held tight until the 61st minute, when Zdenek Ondrasek scored, and then allowed another goal in stoppage time.
Kacper Przybylko, who emerged last season with a team-leading 15 goals and four assists, had two shots against FC Dallas, one on goal, but was unable to find a finishing touch.
Making sure Vela can't finish on Sunday will be key for head coach Jim Curtin's team. Warren Creavalle will be tasked with slowing Vela in the midfield, and defender Matt Real will have to lead the rest of the defense from there.
"It takes multiple players and a team together, and that will be our objective," Curtin told reporters this week. "It won't be Carlos Vela versus Matt Real or whoever he's one-v-one against. It's versus the entire team and us doing a good job to first limit the amount of touches he gets on the ball, (while) respecting he is the MVP of this league for a reason."
--Field Level Media