All eyes in Major League Soccer will turn to Los Angeles for this season’s first installment of “El Tráfico”, the heated rivalry between the LA Galaxy and new-boys LAFC. Heading into the match, the Galaxy sit comfortably in 3rd in the Western Conference while LAFC, far and away the league’s best team this season, leads the division. In fact, LAFC have been so dominant that they have 10 more points than the second best team in MLS, Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union, despite the fact that they have played two fewer games than the Union.
LAFC can attribute their successes this season in large part to two men, head coach Bob Bradley and team captain Carlos Vela. Bradley, former head coach of the United States Men’s National Team, was LAFC’s first signing and joined the club last year for their first season in MLS. Bradley was given the colossal task of leading the construction an entirely new team and the fact that he has taken LAFC from nothingness and turned them into the league’s best side in less than two years is remarkable. However, even a top coach like Bradley wouldn’t have been able to achieve this type of success without great players at his disposal and there is no one better at LAFC than Carlos Vela.
“I want you to be as good as Messi.”
That’s what Bob Bradley told Carlos Vela at the beginning of the season. Many around the world laughed at Bradley’s comments but his faith has been repaid in full as the Mexican is putting up Messi-esque numbers this season. Vela has scored 19 goals in his 19 appearances this season and has additionally chipped in with 8 assists, making him the league leader in both categories.
One man, however, who is certainly not intimidated by Carlos Vela’s MVP season is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. When asked if, despite Vela’s great performances, he still considered himself to be the best player in MLS, Ibrahimovic’s responded in typical Zlatan fashion.
“By far. Because if he is in his prime, how old is he? 29, he’s playing in MLS and he’s in his prime. When I was 29, where was I? Big difference.”
Although Ibrahimovic’s output of 13 goals and 3 assists in 16 matches doesn’t quite match the level Vela is producing at, he still has every right to be cocky. Zlatan is among the very best strikers of the 21st century and even at 37, he can still score with ease, especially against MLS defenses. He is the biggest star the league has seen since Beckham and with his attitude, he fits in perfectly in Los Angeles.
Friday’s edition of “El Tráfico” will be the biggest match of the MLS season thus far. The league’s two best players will go head-to-head, with each eager to prove their superiority. Ibrahimovic and Vela have both put up big performances every time they’ve faced off and fans around the country will be hoping for yet another thriller.