LAFC forward Carlos Vela will sit out of MLS’s return tournament this summer, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Vela, the league’s top scorer and reigning MVP, has elected to stay home with his pregnant wife and 3-year-old son.
“I would like nothing more than to be with my teammates in Orlando,” Vela said in a statement. “However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy.“
The MLS is Back tournament kicks off this week in Orlando, with LAFC’s first game scheduled for July 13. The league gave players the opportunity to opt out of the five-week tournament for health and family reasons.
Vela, LAFC’s captain and one of the league’s biggest stars, is the highest-profile player so far to forego the tournament. Fellow Mexico international and crosstown foe Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez of the LA Galaxy is expected to participate, according to comments made by club officials.
Vela scored 34 goals last season, breaking the MLS single-season scoring record and leading LAFC to the best single-season record in league history. He scored in both of the team’s two games prior to the league’s shutdown in March, giving him goals in 11 consecutive appearances.
Twelve other players and two staff members from three other teams have have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last eight days inside the league’s protective bubble, according to the Los Angeles Times. But there were only two positives out of 1,191 tests during the last round of testing, the lowest number in over a week, the league said.
FC Dallas, which had 10 players and a member of its technical staff test positive for the coronavirus, withdrew from the tournament entirely on Monday.
Florida’s coronavirus cases have surged in recent weeks, coinciding with the league’s announcement that it would stage a closed-door tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. Florida has reported more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, leading to 3,730 deaths.
The MLS is Back tournament is scheduled to begin Wednesday. Orlando City will face Inter Miami in the league’s first game since March.
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