LOS ANGELES – LAFC won its first MLS Cup title, defeating the Philadelphia Union 3-0 on penalty kicks after a thrilling and exciting final at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday tied 3-3 after extra time.
Goalkeeper John McCarthy, in just his second game for the club, was a hero for LAFC, coming off the bench after extra time and saving two penalties in a shootout against his hometown team .
– An unlikely hero ensures the MLS Cup gets a Hollywood finish
– Broadcast on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (US)
Minutes earlier, Philadelphia appeared to have won the championship for the first time when Jack Elliott scored his second goal of the game from near stoppage time at the end of extra time. At the time, LAFC had been reduced to 10 men after a red card for Maxime Crepeau’s goal a few minutes earlier.
But Wales star Gareth Bale, who came off the bench in extra time, put LAFC ahead in the 128th minute with the latest goal in MLS history.
That followed a similarly lackluster end to the reign.
Jesus Murillo put LAFC up 2-1 with seven minutes remaining, but Philadelphia equalized immediately with Elliott’s first goal.
All four goals in regulation time came from set pieces, Kellyn Acosta giving LAFC the lead in the 27th minute with a free kick before Daniel Gazdag leveled for the Union after a corner kick was cleared in the half.
The result means that LAFC becomes the first team since Toronto FC in 2017 to win The Supporters’ Shield, as the best team of the regular season, and the MLS Cup. Saturday marked the first time since 2003 that the No. 1 in the Eastern and Western Conferences faced off in the MLS playoffs.
Midfielder Ilie Sanchez scored LAFC’s winning penalty in the shootout, after successful efforts from Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead. Philadelphia failed to find the back of the net in the area, as McCarthy dived to deny Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, and Gazdag slipped and put his effort high on the crossbar.
“The first 10, 15 minutes, it was a Halloween movie,” Carlos Vela said of watching from the bench after being replaced by Bale in the 97th minute. “Then we finished with a movie of Hollywood.”
A few hours earlier, the game had started with little hint of the thrill ride to come.
However, there was more than a little luck with the opening goal in the 28th minute.
Martinez, a regular on the edge of Philadelphia’s midfield, conceded a foul more than 20 yards from goal and was made to pay when Acosta’s right-footed effort took Jack McGlynn’s header from the Union wall and the goalkeeper is bad. Andre Blake hesitated as he found the corner of the net.
The tempo of the game picked up immediately as LAFC saw an opportunity to extend their lead early on. As he has done so often this season, Blake came up big to keep Philadelphia alive, blocking from point-blank range to deny Diego Palacios’ volley.
Philadelphia finally created an opportunity in the 43rd minute, only for a stunning last-ditch challenge from LAFC’s fourth-choice center Sebastien Ibeagha – who came on for Giorgio Chiellini – to take the ball away from Mikkel Uhre as he she is giving birth. down on purpose.
Despite going into half-time a goal down in a cauldron on the road, Union did not let up. Within 15 minutes of the second half, the game was even.
Also the goal came from a set-piece and there was also an element of luck. Martinez was also involved. This time his powerful shot after a corner broke to him more than 35 meters out went into the path of Gazdag, who turned expertly before reaching the top of the net.
The Hungarian international’s 24th of the season returned the favor and set up a nail-biting final 30 minutes as LAFC fans turned up in droves once again to encourage their side to find the winner.
However, no one could have foreseen how amazing the end would be.
Breathless action began in the 83rd minute. Murillo soared at the near post to head past Blake from where captain Vela headed into the corner in front of the LAFC supporters’ section as it erupted in anticipation of the trophy in LA.
The joy would last less than two minutes. More defense and more defending allowed Elliott to meet Wagner’s free kick and beat Crepeau despite the LAFC keeper getting a glove on it.
Crepeau’s real place in the drama was yet to come. With 110 minutes on the clock, the Canadian international raced into his own box to try and stop Union midfielder Cory Burke from getting on the end of a short back-pass. But doing so earned him a red card, after a VAR review, and he suffered a serious leg injury that required several minutes of treatment and a cart to take him off the field.
For Crepeau, the injury could mean the end of his World Cup hopes.
“I saw his face, and we saw his attitude,” said McCarthy, who won the MLS Cup MVP award. “For me, it’s the game of the game. If he slips and misses, then it’s 3-2 and who knows how the game will end.
“He made a great decision to come out and play the game. I feel bad for him, because it’s a serious injury and it looks like he’s going to miss the World Cup. You don’t come out of this game for the band. “Aid.”
When Elliott put the Union ahead for the first time in the 124th minute there seemed to be no way back for the hosts, as the supporters made the Banc of California one of the best places to play. the best in MLS since the team entered the field. in 2018 he tried to encourage them again.
However, when there are stars like Bale on the field, there is always a chance.
And the 33-year-old, who has played little since joining from Real Madrid in the summer, more than lived up to his hype with a goal that, combined with McCarthy’s save, will live long in LAFC history. .
“This place deserves this,” said first-year coach Steve Cherundolo, who has made a major turnaround from a team that missed the playoffs last year. “These fans are amazing. They deserve the Cup, and they got it.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.