Los Angeles FC attacker Carlos Vela has admitted three MLS victories over Liga MX clubs in midweek CONCACAF Champions League matches show the league is a higher quality than many in Mexico give it credit for.
The Mexico international made the move to MLS expansion franchise LAFC from Real Sociedad, becoming the new team’s first major signing this past fall.
Vela’s career in the United States got off to a fine start as he and LAFC began the season by downing last year’s MLS Cup runner up, the Seattle Sounders, 1-0, on the road.
However, the Sounders rebounded midweek to take a 1-0 victory over Chivas Guadalajara, the club where Vela spent his youth career before moving to Arsenal, in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
That capped a trio of MLS victories against Liga MX in contests Tuesday and Wednesday which saw the New York Red Bulls come out 2-0 winners over Xolos Tijuana and the reigning MLS champion Toronto FC rally for a 2-1 victory over Liga MX Apertura winners Tigres UANL.
Liga MX have historically dominated their MLS counterparts in the competition, so the results surprised many south of the border.
There are still the second legs left for the Liga MX sides to rally, and since both Chivas and Tigres will be at home for those contests, Vela thinks these ties are not over.
"I don't know,” Vela said when asked if he was surprised by the results. "Obviously, the teams in Mexico are strong, it's a very competitive league and the [series] aren't over. I think in Mexico, things will change.
"Above all, I think Tigres [can overturn the deficit], the current [Liga MX] champion and a team that has been in finals or winning for a number of years. It's one of the strongest teams in the tournament and it'll be hard-fought.”
However, Vela noted that the first legs showed MLS sides are better than many in Mexico believe, and taking victory for granted is a mistake.
"But I think [the results] show that the [MLS] isn't as bad a league as people in Mexico think, that it is very physical, very competitive and you don't play walking and that was shown [on Wednesday].”
Despite his new league, Vela is pulling for his home country to come out on top in these ties and ultimately triumph in the tournament.
"I hope the Mexican teams win because I prefer teams from my country to win."
Tijuana travels to New Jersey to face the Red Bulls while Toronto FC heads to Monterrey to battle Tigres in the second legs on Tuesday. Wednesday will feature the Sounders visiting Chivas, while Club America, up 4-0, will look to close out Panamanian club Tauro.