LAFC could get Vela injury boost for El Trafico

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Reigning MLS MVP Carlos Vela could return to action for LAFC against city rival LA Galaxy on Sunday, following a period of over two months out.

Vela suffered a left knee injury against the Galaxy back on Aug. 22, with Bob Bradley’s LAFC showing mixed form in his absence in a MLS regular season disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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“I think that Tristan [Blackmon] and Carlos [Vela] are possible for some minutes in this game,” Bradley said in a news conference. “Those guys have been doing more and more in training, it’s good to see them being more confident and I’m hoping in the next stretch we get those guys back on the field.”

LAFC headed into the weekend in fourth position in the Western Conference and Bradley will be able to use his South American internationals — Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez [Uruguay]; Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios [Ecuador] — for the first time since completing their quarantine following the October international break.

“They are all available,” said Bradley. “The things that are being weighed on our end are just how much they’ve done in the last three weeks. We’ve been able to do individual training. Some guys pushed very hard in individual training because they know, even though they don’t like it, they know that that’s what they need to do to be ready to play. We’ll assess all of that and make decisions.”

Bradley stressed that the derby — widely labeled as “El Trafico” — will be a “hard-fought” match, even with the Galaxy struggling and in last place in the conference, seven points behind LAFC.

The Galaxy defeated Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 last time out, but lost their previous six matches before that, with Galaxy forward Cristian Pavon agreeing that it is a must-win game for the franchise if it is to make a late playoff push.

“Yes, obviously we have to win, we need the three points and that’s the important thing,” said Pavon. “We’ve played them before, we know them, they know us and we know we have to win.”

Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto dropped star striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the bench for the win against the Whitecaps and was coy on whether the Mexican will start against LAFC, following his disappointing first season to date in MLS.

“You have to assume the responsibility of your position and understand the different moments that life throws at you,” said the Argentine. “Sometimes you have to make a change, sometimes you have to support, sometimes insist, sometimes you have to see with players whether you can rely on them or not.”

“If [a player] doesn’t perform, my role is to try to make him improve and get his best performances,” he continued. “And if I have to say something about Chicharito, Cristian Pavon or Jonathan dos Santos the place to do so isn’t in public, but in the locker room, with them or in a private meeting.”

Pavon denied that Hernandez is a distant figure in the Galaxy locker room, as one report recently indicated.

“All the players get on, each day it’s getting better,” said Pavon. “We talk all the time, in the locker room, on the pitch, about our privates lives, how we need to play, we talk all the time. I honestly don’t know where that [report] that we don’t talk came from.”

Mexico international Jonathan dos Santos will be available for the Galaxy, according to Barros Schelotto, as will Venezuela defender Rolf Feltscher.