LAFC vs. Philadelphia Union – Football Match Report – November 5, 2022

LOS ANGELES — LAFC won its first MLS Cup title with a 3-0 penalty shootout victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday to tie the game 3-3 after overtime at Bank of California Stadium.

Substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy, making his second appearance for the club, was LAFC’s hero, coming off the bench in stoppage time to save 2 penalties against his hometown club.

– An unlikely hero proves that the MLS Cup has a Hollywood ending
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, More (USA)

Minutes earlier, Philadelphia looked to have won the title for the first time when Jack Elliott scored his second goal of the game from close range in stoppage time. By that point, LAFC had been reduced to 10 men due to a red card for goalkeeper Maxime Crepe minutes earlier.

But Welsh star Gareth Bale, who came off the bench in extra time, miraculously scored the last goal in MLS history to equalize for LAFC in the 128th minute.

That was followed by an equally breathless period of control.

Jesus Murillo put LAFC up 2-1 with seven minutes to go, but Philadelphia immediately equalized with Elliott’s first goal.

All four goals came in regulation time, with Kellyn Acosta scoring a penalty in the 27th minute for LAFC after Daniel Gazdag’s corner kick went in half for the Union to equalize.

The result means LAFC will become the first team since Toronto FC to win both the Fans’ Shield, Best Regular Season Team and MLS Cup in 2017. Saturday marks the first time since 2003 that the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences will meet in an MLS exhibition game.

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Midfielder Eli Sanchez scored the winning penalty for LAFC following successful efforts by Dennis Buanga and Ryan Hollingshead. Philadelphia failed to find the net from the spot, McCarthy diving to deny Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, and Gazdag slipped and sent his effort over the crossbar.

“It was a Halloween movie for the first 10 or 15 minutes,” Carlos Vela said as he watched from the sidelines after being replaced by Bale in the 97th minute. Then we end with a Hollywood movie.

Several hours ago, the game started with a small hint of the exciting journey to come.

But the opening goal of the game in the 28th minute was more than a good chance.

Martinez, always on the edge of Philadelphia’s midfield, was made to pay for a careless foul 20 yards from goal when Acosta’s right-footed effort bounced off the Union wall and over the left keeper to beat Jack Maglin’s head and was stopped as Andre Blake found the corner of the net.

The tempo of the game picked up as LAFC saw an opportunity to extend their lead before the break. 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 a chance of their own in the 43rd minute, with LAFC’s fourth-choice centre-back Sebastian Ibegaga — coming on for Giorgi — making a last-ditch challenge to take the ball away from Mikel Uhr. Down on the goal.

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A shield-like atmosphere on the road led to a goal at half-time, but the Union did not give up. The game was tied 15 minutes into the second half.

Again the goal came from a set piece and again it was a piece of good luck. Martinez is also involved again. This time, after a corner was broken from 35 yards out, his ambition found its way into the path of Gazdag, who expertly converted before finishing high into the net.

The Hungary international’s 24th goal of the season restored parity and set up a nail-biting final 30 minutes as the LAFC fans rose again to cheer their team on to a winner.

Still, no one could have predicted how dramatic the ending would be.

The breathless action began in the 83rd minute. Murillo rose high to power past Blake on the edge of captain Vela’s corner in front of the LAFC fans section.

The joy lasts less than two minutes. Another set piece and more loose defending allowed Elliott to get a free kick from Wagner and beat Crepe despite the LAFC keeper getting a glove.

Cripeau’s real place in the drama was yet to come. On 110 minutes, the Canadian international raced out of the box to keep out Union striker Corey Burke’s short back pass. But in doing so, he cost himself a red card, with a leg injury that required several minutes of treatment and a stretcher to be carried off following a VAR review.

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For Cripe, the injury could spell the end of his World Cup hopes.

“I’ve seen his face, we’ve seen his emotions,” said McCarthy, who won the MLS Cup MVP award. “For me, that’s the play of the game. If he slips and misses, it’s 3-2 and who knows how the game will end.

“He took a big time out of this game. I feel sorry 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 with a Band-Aid.”

When Elliott put the Union ahead for the first time in the 124th minute, it looked like there would be no way back for the hosts, even though the fans who have made Banca, California, one of the best places in MLS since the team entered the league. He tried to encourage them once in 2018.

Even with a superstar like Bale on the field, there is always a chance.

And the 33-year-old, who has played sparingly since joining from Real Madrid in the summer, combined with McCarthy’s save will live long in LAFC history.

“This place deserves this,” said first-year coach Steve Cherundolo, who made significant changes to a team that made the postseason last season. “These fans are amazing, they deserve a trophy, and they got it.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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