Mexico stars Hector Herrera, Carlos Vela set to clash
Herrera considers Vela the best Mexican soccer star of their generation
As far as Hector Herrera is concerned, Carlos Vela is the best Mexican soccer player of his generation. That’s saying quite a bit considering that the Mexican national team’s all-time leading scorer, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, is of the same generation.
A good case can be made, however, that Herrera had a better career in Europe than Vela and Hernandez, two star forwards who shone brightly at times in Europe but never quite as well as many El Tri fans expected.
Vela was the first to seek refuge in Major League Soccer. He left Europe in his prime and became one of MLS’ brightest stars with Los Angeles Football Club beginning in 2018. Two years later, Hernandez joined the L.A. Galaxy. Herrera joined MLS in 2022 with the Houston Dynamo, the same year Vela led LAFC to its first MLS Cup title.
Hector Herrera lifts Houston Dynamo
A few weeks after the Galaxy released Hernandez, his two former El Tri teammates will meet in the Western Conference Final on Saturday night. Herrera has helped a once proud MLS powerhouse return to prominence. Vela hopes to guide LAFC to its second consecutive title.
“Personally, I’ve always said Carlos Vela, beyond being my friend, I consider him the best player from Mexico because of his quality and the career he’s had,” Herrera says. “Personally, that’s what I think about him. It’s not the first time I’ve said it. I said it to him.
“It will be a pleasure to say hi and play against him. I’ve always said you want to play against the best, and this game is going to be that way.”
Herrera, 33, and Vela, 34, are two of the biggest stars in MLS. They aren’t quite at Lionel Messi’s level. Nobody in North America or even South America ranks up there with the Inter Miami star.
Nonetheless, Vela and Hector Herrera are the types of figures MLS has sought since its inaugural 1996 season to court the large Mexican and Mexican American population in the United States.
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Vela has scored 78 goals over 152 regular season games in MLS. He scored a career-high 34 goals during his MVP season in 2019.
Unlike Vela and Hernandez, the Dynamo’s Herrera is a central midfielder. His primary role is to set up the attack. To that end, Herrera had 17 assists and four goals this year in his first full season in MLS.
Herrera’s brilliant delivery on a corner kick set up the Dynamo’s winning goal in the Western Conference semifinals against Sporting Kansas City.
The Dynamo haven’t won an MLS Cup title since they won their second in a row in 2007. They haven’t appeared in an MLS Cup Final since they lost their second in a row in 2012 against Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“We need to re-energize the community,” Dynamo coach Ben Olsen said. “You do that by winning. It’s about playing in the right way and in a style that resonates with our fans around the city. It’s also about eyeballs, with more people in the stands and winning back some old fans that got disgruntled.
“This is a new start for us. I’m enjoying it again because we all talked about trying to win in the right way. That lends you an opportunity to have success in other areas. That’s exposure and being relevant again.”
The Dynamo are clear underdogs heading into the Western Conference Final. Few would have predicted to see Herrera and Co. in this position at the start of the season, though.
“I said this a few months ago that for me they were probably the strongest team we’ve faced,” Herrera said of LAFC. “They are complete. They have really great players and match up really well by position. I still believe that. They have high quality players with a lot of experience.
“And it is going to be a difficult game. I don’t think we need to change our identity based on LAFC. What we have in our locker room has brought us here to a conference final.”
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