MLS: Los Angeles FC defeat Union in shootout to claim MLS Cup
LOS ANGELES — Ilie Sanchez scored the game-winning goal in a penalty shootout and Los Angeles FC won their first MLS Cup title in their fifth season after a wild 3-3 tie in regulation and extra time.
John McCarthy made two diving saves in the shootout after entering the game late in the 30-minute extra time. He came on when starting LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau came away with a gruesome lower right leg injury after a collision with the Union’s Cory Burke.
“We know what he could do in penalties; we’ve seen it, we trained them and trained for these moments,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said of McCarthy, who played in just one MLS game this season. “John came up big. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy and we’re happy for him and everybody at LAFC.”
Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead also scored in the penalty shootout as LAFC followed their Supporters’ Shield season with the championship.
Kellyn Acosta, Jesus Murillo scored in regulation time for LAFC, while Gareth Bale saved the team’s season with a score just before the final whistle, preventing the Union from winning the title. Philadelphia was attempting to win its first championship in its 13th season.
Bale’s goal in the 128th minute was the latest-scored tally in MLS Cup history.
“It’s Gareth being Gareth,” Cherundolo said. “He’s done it in training, he’s done it in the season. When he’s feeling well and healthy he makes a difference in games. That’s why we bring him in for those moments. I wish he was 24.”
Jack Elliott scored two goals for the Union, while Daniel Gazdag also scored. The Union were off target in all three of their attempts in the penalty shootout, with Gazdag misfiring over the crossbar, while Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner had shots stopped by McCarthy.
The Union appeared to win it late in the 30-minute extra time when Elliott delivered after a scramble in front of the LAFC goal for a 3-2 lead. But four minutes later, Bale scored on a header off a pass from Diego Palacios to send the game into a penalty shootout.
The goal came in Bale’s first game since he played five minutes on Oct. 2 and just the third time the renown international from Wales was available off the bench.
“Today it just wasn’t meant to be, but I hope this group stays together for many years,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “I think we can make another run at this thing but right now it hurts and we’ll have to regroup to handle the offseason.”
Crepeau was given a red card as LAFC played the last 12 minutes of extra time with 10 men, although the goalkeeper’s foul prevented Burke from running onto a loose ball and potentially scoring the go-ahead goal.
Cherundolo did not have an update of his goalkeeper’s condition immediately after the game, but a snapshot circulated on social media postgame of Bale on a facetime call with Crepeau, still in uniform, during the postgame celebration.
It was the first time since 2003 the MLS Cup final was contested between the league’s top two teams. The San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Chicago Fire 4-2 in that one.
–By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media