The scene was set perfectly for an exciting exhibition of soccer at the MLS Cup final when Philadelphia and LAFC faced off at Banc of California.
For the first time since 2003, the top ranked teams of each conference would compete against each other in the final. Then it was a battle between Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes, but today it was a Hollywood worthy finale.
It was in the 27′ minute that LAFC, through the means of midfielder Kellyn Acosta, opened up the scoreboard to what would soon be a feast of goals. Off a set piece play, Acosta struck the ball with his right foot catching a piece of a deflection; enough to put it past the Jamaican national team keeper Andre Blake.
In the second half, Philadelphia would show a different face to their attack. The team would eventually lead the match by a goal close to the end of stoppage.
Both supporter sections were constantly cheering and making themselves heard. With only eight minutes left in the match, LAFC’s Jesús Murillo would put the ball in the back of the goal making it 2-1 as if sentencing the final for the Angelenos, but the Union was not about to give up so easily. Only three minutes later Philadelphia would tie it, sending the match to overtime.
In the first half of extra time, LAFC’s keeper, Maxime Creapeau would commit a foul in order to protect his goal from an imminent downfall. Resulting from this foul, Crepeau earned a red card, lost his participation in the remainder of the final and suffered an ankle fracture that will likely keep him out of the World Cup.
To add more drama, his successor, John McCarthy, would later take the spotlight — but first we have to see what Gareth Bale did.
Referee Ismael Eflath had added nine minutes when, after a corner kick, Philadelphia Union’s Jack Elliot silenced the 3252 supporters section with a late goal. However, the match ends only when the final whistle is blown. With 90 seconds left on the clock, Gareth Bale placed a header into the goal that would shake all of Los Angeles.
This earthquake would continue throughout the penalty shootout as John McCarthy would make two critical saves which would grant Ilie Sánchez the opportunity to sign history and bring LAFC their first title since their league debut in 2018.
Ilie Sánchez stated his confidence in his keeper was unshaken even after the abrupt substitution. “We felt confident throughout the 130 minutes and of course in the shootout. We knew how good John McCarthy is in goal, and also, we’ve been practicing the kicks in the past week,” added the Spanish midfielder for LAFC.
Carlos Vela was the first-ever signing for the Black and Gold and recalls arriving in Los Angeles before the club had neither a stadium nor team colors. Now he is aware that his goals are starting to become a reality. “I had that in my mind. I put the target. Today, finally, we get it. Like I say, we took long (time) to get it, but we got it,” said Vela.
Los Angeles continues to celebrate as yet another one of their 12 sport teams earn a title. LAFC joins the Lakers, Dodgers and Rams in earning a title in the last two years.