Carlos Vela played in a World Cup for Mexico and has spent his club career in England, Spain and the U.S., but the LAFC forward sounded more like German Sgt. Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes fame when asked if he’s spoken to fellow Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about signing with the Galaxy.
“I can say nothing,” Vela said, eliciting hearty laughs after LAFC’s first training-camp practice of 2020 on Monday. “But yes, we have talked.”
Vela, 30, scored a league-record 34 goals to win MLS most valuable player honors last season, leading LAFC to 21-4-9 record before a loss to Seattle in the Western Conference final.
Hernandez, 31, is Mexico’s all-time leading scorer whose Spanish club team, Sevilla, has reportedly agreed to let go on a $10-million transfer. Hernandez’s representatives were reportedly scheduled to meet with the Galaxy this week.
If a contract can be worked out and Hernandez joins the Galaxy, two of Mexico’s most prolific goal-scorers would play in a Los Angeles market teeming with Latino fans, spicing up an already healthy rivalry between the clubs.
“Would I like to see it happen? Of course,” Vela said. “He’s a scoring machine … and he does a really good job defending. I think the Mexican fans would be excited. But I don’t know. We are just talking. I don’t say nothing.”
LAFC, in its third season, began training a week earlier than most MLS teams because it will begin play earlier, traveling to Mexico to face Leon in a CONCACAF Champions League game Feb. 18. The second leg will be Feb. 27 in Banc of California Stadium.
While Vela joined fellow returnees such as defender Jordan Harvey and forwards Latif Blessing and Josh Perez at the team’s Cal State Los Angeles training facility, Monday’s session was also notable for who wasn’t there.
Goalie Tyler Miller, who won a Western Conference-best 34 games the past two seasons, is “out of contract,” in the words of coach Bob Bradley, and he is no longer bound to LAFC. Veteran defender Steven Beitashour, who started 24 games last season, also was not re-signed.
Pablo Sisniega, who allowed nine goals and had 17 saves in six starts last season, is the favorite to replace Miller but will be pushed by Phillip Ejimadu and Paulo Pita, the Marshall University keeper who was LAFC’s first pick in last week’s draft.
“There’s always the possibility that we add [another goalie], but Pablo made great strides last year,” Bradley said. “He showed real promise in some of the games, so we feel good about him continuing to develop.”
Also absent were five starters who will be on national-team duty for another three weeks or so: center back Walker Zimmerman (U.S.); defender Eddie Segura and midfielder Eduard Atuesta (Colombia); and forward Diego Rossi and midfielder Francisco Ginella (Uruguay).
All are expected back in time for the Champions League game, but they won’t have as much time to jell as Leon, which will have played five Liga MX matches before facing LAFC.
“It’s difficult … but the good thing is they’re not out doing nothing,” said Harvey, who is entering his 16th MLS season. “They’re with their national teams, they’re getting games in, they’re definitely fit. So barring injury they’ll come back flying and will give us a boost.”
There was one notable addition to Monday’s practice and one big one to come. Among nonroster invitees trying out was Bradley Wright-Phillips, a 34-year-old English striker who had three 20-goal seasons for the New York Red Bulls since 2014.
LAFC also announced Monday that it signed 20-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Jose Cifuentes, the seventh South American player under age 22 to sign with the club.
The 5-foot-9 Cifuentes, whose 25-yard rocket in the 2019 U20 World Cup quarterfinals against the U.S. was named goal of the tournament, will team with newcomer Ginella to give LAFC two dynamic young midfielders. He will join the team pending receipt of his international transfer certificate and P1 Visa.
“He’s a talented young player,” Bradley said, “somebody I think will fit in with some of the other really good young players we have.”