MLS Cup Final: Los Angeles Soccer Club defeats Philadelphia Union on penalties

LOS ANGELES– Gareth Bale tied the score 3-3 with a spectacular header eight minutes into added time, substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy stopped two Philadelphia shots in the shootout and Los Angeles FC beat the Union 3-0 at the penalty kicks to claim his first MLS Cup championship on Saturday.

After Bale came on in extra time and scored the tying goal for Los Angeles at 10, Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead and Ilie Sanchez converted on penalties in the shootout, capping the most dramatic of 27 title games of the MLS. LA became the eighth team in MLS history to win both the Supporters’ Shield as regular season champions and the MLS Cup playoff tournament.

“This place deserves it,” first-year coach Steve Cherundolo said. “These fans are amazing. They deserve a cup, and they got it.”

McCarthy, a Philadelphia native and former Union goaltender who had exactly one previous game of MLS action for LAFC this season, was forced to play in the second overtime period when starter Maxime Crepeau suffered a serious injury. injured a leg while committing a red card foul on Cory. Burke.

McCarthy gave up Jack Elliott’s second goal of the game to put Philadelphia ahead in the fourth minute of added time. Bale came on in the 97th minute and the 33-year-old scored in the eighth of nine scheduled minutes of stoppage time with a thrilling header for the Welsh superstar’s third MLS goal and first in three months.

In the shootout, McCarthy didn’t allow a goal on Union’s three attempts, watching Dániel Gazdag slip and pass Philadelphia’s first attempt over the crossbar, then dive to make saves on José Martínez and Kai Wagner. Sánchez then sealed victory in front of the ecstatic LAFC crowd.

“You feel for their goalkeeper when he’s stretched,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “(McCarthy is a) great kid, a kid from Philadelphia who did great things in Philadelphia. The football gods have a funny way of working. I half-joked on the bench that I can’t believe Johnny is going to be there, and it’s probably going to go to penalties.”

Elliott also forced extra time by scoring the equalizer in the 85th minute of regulation time for the Union, who recovered from a pair of one-goal deficits in their first appearance in the MLS Cup final. . Philadelphia then took the lead in extra time when their England defender set the record for the last goal in MLS history.

Elliott held that record for just four minutes, until Bale got up and headed for Diego Palacios’ cross.

Bale, who left Real Madrid in the summer with an eye on preparing for Wales’ World Cup appearance later this month, was getting his first minutes with Los Angeles since October 2.

Philadelphia rallied twice in settlement to tie it after the hosts drove to Banc of California Stadium, which was packed with fans dressed in black anticipating the capping of their franchise’s impressive first half-decade top-level expansion, which includes two regular-season league titles.

Kellyn Acosta scored in the first half for LAFC, and Philadelphia leading scorer Gazdag equalized early in the second. Jesús David Murillo headed the game-winning goal for LAFC in the 83rd minute from a Carlos Vela corner, but Elliott equalized again for Philadelphia two minutes later.

The MLS Cup Final was a fitting post-season game between the league’s best teams throughout the regular season and two of its most impressive organizations over the past half-decade. LAFC and Philadelphia finished top of their respective conferences this year with an identical 67 points before surviving the two-game playoff gauntlet to reach both clubs’ first playoff championship game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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