LAFC picked up the contract option Tuesday on forward Carlos Vela, the 2019 most valuable player, but declined options on five others, including forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, the 2020 comeback player of the year.
Vela, 31, broke the MLS record with 34 goals last year, leading LAFC to a Supporters’ Shield. But he played just seven games this year, sitting out the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, then tearing ligaments in his left knee in his first game back.
Terms of the contract were not released but Vela, a designated player, was guaranteed $6.3 million in each of his first two seasons, making him one of the five best-paid players in MLS.
The team also exercised options on goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega and forward Danny Musovski, leaving it with 20 players under contract for next year.
Wright-Phillips, 35, who signed with LAFC last Valentine’s Day, finished second on the team in goals (eight) and assists (six). He and defenders Jordan Harvey and Dejan Jaković, whose contracts are expiring, are eligible for free agency, which begins Dec. 16. All three can re-sign with LAFC.
In addition to Wright-Phillips, the team declined contract options on goalkeeper Phillip Ejimadu, forward Adrien Perez and defenders Jesús Murillo and Andy Najar. The contract for defender Mohamed El-Munir and the loan agreement for defender Mark Segbers will expire at the end of the year.
Ejimadu, Murillo, Najar, Perez and El-Munir all are eligible for the MLS re-entry draft in mid December.
LAFC had few tough roster decisions to make because general manager John Thorrington already had much of the team’s core under contract for next season. Designated players Diego Rossi, who led the league with 14 goals, and Brian Rodríguez, who led the team with seven assists, are signed as are midfielder Francisco Ginella and defender Eddie Segura, the only players to appear in all 22 games this season. Also back will be midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye, a 2019 all-star, and Eduard Atuesta, who made the all-league team last year. Both players had their 2020 seasons interrupted by injury.
LAFC (9-8-5) finished seventh in the Western Conference this season and was eliminated by the Seattle Sounders in the first round of the playoffs.
Tuesday’s roster decisions will not affect eligibility for the CONCACAF Champions League, which resumes in two weeks in Orlando, Fla., with LAFC facing Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals. All players under contract can participate in the tournament.
LAFC's 2021 roster:
Goalkeepers: Pablo Sisniega, Kenneth Vermeer. Defenders: Tristan Blackmon, Erik Dueñas, Tony Leone, Diego Palacios, Eddie Segura, Mohamed Traore Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing, José Cifuentes, Bryce Duke, Francisco Ginella, Mark-Anthony Kaye. Forwards: Danny Musovski, Kwadwo Opoku, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi, Christian Torres, Carlos Vela.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.