9:50 AM BST
Tom MarshallMexico correspondent
LOS ANGELES – Carlos Vela‘s second goal in LAFC’s 4-0 victory over San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday may have been reminiscent of Lionel Messi, but coach Bob Bradley isn’t getting carried away, or taking credit for the Mexico international’s form.
Bradley garnered headlines after an ESPN documentary showed the head coach encouraging Vela to get as close to Messi’s level as possible and the 30-year-old has certainly responded this season, netting twice against the Earthquakes and recording a goal or an assist every 55 minutes this season.
“To be clear on this, it’s 100 percent sure that Carlos isn’t playing this well because I told him to be like Messi,” Bradley said postmatch. “If it was that easy, I’d tell them all [to be like Messi], or I’d tell some to be like Xavi to spread it out a little bit.”
Bradley said the comparison had been “blown out of proportion” but the point he was trying to stress appears to have reached the intended target.
“My point to Carlos was just that when you come to MLS you have to set the bar that high,” Bradley added. “I’ve heard him say it, when he was in La Liga and there was Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Messi and some other guys, it’s hard for him to think ‘I want to be the best guy in the league.’ But when he got here I wanted him to think: now is your chance [to be the best in the league].”
Vela stated in a news conference that it is difficult to affirm that this is the best form of his career because of the difficulty of playing in La Liga, but stressed the key to his 26 goals and 15 assists this season has been his happiness off the field.
Former U.S. national team head coach Bradley said Vela has taken on the responsibility of leading an LAFC side now preparing for Sunday’s “El Trafico” against local rival LA Galaxy, who LAFC has never defeated.
“It means more, it’s the emotion in the game, the intensity of the game, so far with all the things we’ve done we haven’t beaten them so it’s certainly something we’re all thinking about,” he said of Sunday’s game. “So we’ve got to be ready and have a great go at it, enjoy it, try to take our football and put it out there knowing it’s got to be with intensity, with concentration, with a lot of things, that’s what derbies are all about. It should be a good night.”
Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda was sent off during the first half of the game and was left frustrated with the decision, but apologized for his reaction after receiving his marching orders.
“I lost my head and I publicly apologize,” he told reporters.
The result leaves the Earthquakes in sixth position in the Western Conference, but without a victory now in four matches.