Oct. 7 (UPI) — LAFC striker Carlos Vela recorded a hat trick and set the MLS single-season scoring record in a 3-1 win against the Colorado Rapids.
Vela scored twice in the second half before completing his hat trick in the 51st minute of the triumph Sunday at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. Vela had 34 goals in 31 games this season to capture the Golden Boot.
“This was more than I expected,” Vela told reporters. “I always dream high when I start a season, but it doesn’t always happen.
“I really enjoyed every day of the season.”
LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing hit Vela with a pass in front of the Rapids box during the first scoring sequence. Vela had his back to the goal when he received the ball. The LAFC striker tapped the ball around before placing it on his left boot and curling a 25-yard strike into the left side of the net.
Vela’s first score broke the single-season scoring record previously held by Josef Martinez, who scored 31 goals in 34 games last season.
His second score came in the 31st minute. LAFC left back Tristan Blackmon headed a ball into the middle of the box to find Vela during that exchange. Vela launched himself into the air and scored with a scissor kick to beat Rapids keeper Tim Howard.
Kei Kamara scored in the 40th minute for the Rapids, who trailed 2-1 at halftime.
Blackmon assisted Vela’s final goal in the 51st minute. The LAFC defender received a long pass down the right flank during that sequence. Blackmon used his first touch to ground a pass through the box. Vela deflected the feed into the far-post netting, beating Howard for a third time.
Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished second in scoring during the 2019 MLS campaign with 30 goals. Martinez — the 2018 MLS MVP — scored 27 times for Atlanta United. Vela scored six game-winning goals and nine penalty kicks during his record-setting campaign. He also had 15 assists, trailing only Maximiliano Moralez and 2017 MLS MVP Diego Valeri.
LAFC faces the Galaxy or Minnesota United in the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Oct. 24. Vela led LAFC to the all-time single-season points record with 72 points during their 2019 campaign.
“The challenge is there every game,” LAFC manager Bob Bradley said. “Teams have a plan as to how they want to play against us. You take the things you try to be as a team and do them as well as possible.”