By Anthony Caruso II
Los Angeles Football Club made a marquee signing in the midseason. However, it’s a signing from January, who saved the day.
LAFC defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-3 (3-0 in PKs) to win their first MLS Cup at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Both teams were appearing in their first MLS Cup.
The black and gold are the first Western Conference team to win the MLS Cup since 2019. The Eastern Conference had won two straight.
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Before LAFC, the Seattle Sounders FC was the last Western Conference team to win the trophy. They defeated Toronto FC 3-1 at CenturyLink Field (now Lumen Field) in Seattle, Washington.
John McCarthy signed a one-year deal with LAFC in January. He will now be a hero to all of the LAFC fans forever due to his late performance in this contest.
McCarthy — a Philadelphia native, who began his career with the Union — came in when Maxime Crépeau received a red card in the 116th minute. The red card caused LAFC to play the second part of extra time with one man down for nearly 15 minutes.
Crépeau received the card for taking out Cory Burke as he got past the LAFC defense and was feet away from scoring. Crépeau suffered a knee injury that caused him to be carted off the field.
Burke was also injured on the play. He had to be subbed out in the 120th minute.
McCarthy stopped all three Union penalty kicks. Dániel Gazdag slipped and fell during his PK which caused the ball to go over the net.
José Andrés Martínez and Kai Wagner also missed their attempts.
Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead scored on their penalty kicks after Cristian Tello missed his PK. Ilie Sánchez scored the game-clinching goal that gave LAFC the PK win.
All four of these men joined LAFC since January. Tello and Bouanga came In Transfers while Hollingshead and Sánchez were added in trades.
This was the sixth MLS Cup to reach penalty kicks. It was the second straight year that the final game of the season went to PKs.
Los Angeles has their first MLS Cup in eight years. The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 at the StubHub Center (now the Dignity Health Sports Park) on December 7th, 2014 in Carson, California.
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Gareth Bale — LAFC’s marquee signing during the summer transfer window — tied the game late in the 120’+8 minute. Bale scored on a header past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
This was the latest goal in MLS history. Bale came in during the 97th minute for Carlos Vela, who is the heart and soul of the club. But first-year LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo looks like a genius now for making this move after it worked out.
Jack Elliott gave the Union a 3-2 lead in extra time. He got the rebound near the net to give Philadelphia the lead in the 120’+4.
At the time before Bale’s goal, Elliott had the latest goal in MLS history.
Elliott also scored during the 85th minute. He has three career playoff goals. Two of them came during the MLS Cup.
Gazdag opened the scoring for the Union in the 59th minute.
Kellyn Acosta gave LAFC their first goal in the Cup in the 27th minute. Jesús Murillo also scored in the 83rd minute.
The Union played the entire game without their captain. Alejandro Bedoya suffered a leg injury in their Eastern Conference Finals win over NYCFC that forced him to miss this game.
Despite not playing, Bedoya was coaching his teammates to the best of his ability on the bench.
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