Steve Cherundolo non-committal on Carlos Vela's future (0:30)LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo heaps praise on club captain Carlos Vela and hopes the Mexican forward stays in California next season. (0:30)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As LAFC prepares to defend its MLS Cup title on Saturday, it is also bracing for the possibility it will be the final game in Black and Gold for club icon Carlos Vela and longtime Italy international Giorgio Chiellini.
Both players' contracts will expire after Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew.
"Everybody knows how happy I am in L.A., how happy I am in this team," Vela said. "But it's a job, it's a business. We know sometimes it [doesn't work out] the way you want. We are two different sides and we have to be on the same page. But I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking just about the final and the big chance we have to win the trophy.
"After that we will have time to talk and see if something works. If it doesn't, everybody will be on their way and we'll have good memories and good history together."
Vela, 34, was the club's first major signing, when he arrived from Spain's Real Sociedad ahead of its debut season in 2018 and is the only player still with the club from that team. Over the last six years, Vela has been instrumental in turning LAFC into the most dominant offensive force in the league.
Carlos Vela and Giorgio Chiellini are likely starters as LAFC defends its MLS Cup title on Saturday. USA Today Images
His 78 regular season goals since 2018 rank No. 2 in MLS, and in 2019 he set the single-season league record with 34 goals. This year, playing more centrally as opposed to his preferred right wing, Vela's 21 goal contributions (9 goals, 12 assists) during the regular season ranked No. 10 in the league. He appeared in all 34 games.
Chiellini, the longtime Juventus center-back, joined LAFC last summer and has made 44 appearances across all competitions. Though he dealt with some nagging injuries after moving to Major League Soccer, Chiellini has been a key player for LAFC over the final three months of the season. LAFC is unbeaten in Chiellini's 10 appearances since Sept. 17, including clean sheets in the last three playoff games.
"The club is open with me and has given me the total freedom to decide," Chiellini said. "I still am in doubt. I have to understand what I have to follow if it's my head or if it's my heart."
"Next week I will talk with my family and try to understand better what's next and the right decision. Yeah, it could be [my last game], could not be, we'll see. But now I'm really enjoying everything.
"It is not just about my experience here in the U.S. In the last year, I started to enjoy every day like it was the last day."
Both players are expected to start on Saturday against Columbus as LAFC tries to become the first club to win back-to-back MLS Cups since the LA Galaxy in 2011-12.
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