LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carlos Vela is on pace to break Major League Soccer's single-season goals record but the Los Angeles FC captain has already reached a mark that he considers more significant.
Vela tied the league mark for combined goals and assists with a goal and two assists in Sunday's 4-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls. The striker's 38 points are even with Sebastian Giovinco, who set the mark in 2015 with Toronto.
Giovinco's 22 goals and 16 assists came in 33 games. Vela has 23 goals and 15 assists in 23 games. With 10 games remaining in the regular season, Vela could establish a record that might not be broken for some time.
"I think for me that record is more important than just goals because in the end, I'm not a striker, I'm not just scoring goals, I'm not always just in the front waiting for the ball," Vela said. "I'm trying to involve all of my teammates. I'm trying to help them, I'm trying to make some plays for them. So that's more important because I like to make assists, too.
Both of Vela's assists came on set pieces, which Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said is one of the more underestimated parts of his game.
"He puts the ball wherever he wants," Armas said. "It's just not in the right location but it's with the right pace. There's not much time for the defense to react."
With 37 goals in 51 MLS games, Vela added another mark Sunday. His score off a penalty kick in the 61st minute gave him the most scores by a Mexican player in league history. He surpassed Erick Torres, who had 36 goals over five seasons (2013-17) with Chivas USA and Houston.
"It is a great pride," Vela said. "One works hard on a daily basis to have achievements like these. Having your name in the records is a great feeling and it is something that one always dreams of."
Vela needs eight goals to tie Josef Martinez's single-season record. The reigning MVP and Atlanta United star had 31 last year. Vela has only six games where he hasn't had a goal this season and has 10 in his last 10 games played.
Vela said the race with Martinez is special because of their friendly rivalry.
"I believe that him breaking records means that if I want to be at his level that I also have to achieve great things," Vela said. "That is where we are competing. Let the best man win, but I will continue to work hard to be my best self."
LAFC coach Bob Bradley said Vela continues to stand out on and off the field as the second-year franchise continues to dominate MLS. They have the league's best record (17-3-4) and with 55 points have a 16-point lead on Seattle in the Western Conference.
"He's been fantastic in all ways," Bradley said. "When we signed him, it was a statement of the kind of football we wanted to play. He's come in and done all that while growing as a leader."
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