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LAFC tops Union in shootout to capture first MLS Cup title


LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles FC didn’t expect to rely on veteran backup goalkeeper John McCarthy in Saturday’s MLS Cup Final, but received a heroic performance from him to lift a first-ever MLS Cup.

McCarthy came off the bench and made two saves while LAFC scored three of its attempts as Steve Cherundolo’s squad defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-0 on spot kicks. The teams played out a thrilling 3-3 draw through 120 minutes, which saw LAFC pegged back twice and Gareth Bale’s 128th minute equalizer forcing a shootout.

McCarthy came off the bench to replace injured starter Maxime Crepeau and proceeded to deny both Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner. Cristian Tello’s first shot was rejected by Andre Blake, but the Jamaican could not repel Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead, and Ilie Sanchez from scoring their efforts.

LAFC’s first-half pressure led to a breakthrough goal with Kellyn Acosta benefitting off a defection. Acosta’s right-footed free kick deflected off Union midfielder Jack McGlynn and snuck into the bottom-left corner past Andre Blake.

It was Acosta’s first-career playoff goal and his 19th overall in league play.

LAFC came close to doubling its lead before halftime, once again with its chance coming from a free kick. Although the original effort was blocked by the Union wall, Carlos Vela’s cross towards the back post allowed Diogo Palacios to create a one-time shot towards goal.

Andre Blake dove to his left and punched away the left back’s shot, which looked destined to nestle into the right corner of his goal.

The Union got themselves back into the match in the 59th minute with Daniel Gazdag tying things up for the Eastern Conference champions. Jose Martinez’s long-range shot turned into a great set-up for Gazdag, allowing the Hungarian to roof a shot past Maxime Crepeau.

LAFC thought it snatched a winning goal through Jesus Murillo’s header in the 83rd minute, but the Union fought their way back and tied things up for a second time.

Jack Elliott’s header on a set piece snuck past Crepeau and into the bottom-left corner. It was Elliott’s third goal of 2022 and his second-career playoff goal.

The arrivals of Gareth Bale and Cristian Tello helped spark LAFC’s attack in extra time and forced a strong save from Blake to keep the teams level at 2-2. Kwadwo Opoku and Tello connected on a 1-2 before the Spanish international’s long-range shot was punched wide by Blake.

A scary incident occurred in stoppage time which led to the ejection of LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau. Jesus Murillo’s poor back pass forced Crepeau to race out of his box and clear the ball, but the Canadian also collided with Union forward Cory Burke.

McCarthy, a former third round pick by the Union in 2015, replaced Crepeau and would have a huge say in the final result.

Elliott propelled the Union in front in the 124th minute as his rebound finish gave the visitors a 3-2 lead. McCarthy could not deal with Elliott’s tap-in finish after previously denying the veteran center back’s header. However, LAFC would fight its way to the final minute with superstar Gareth Bale rising to the occasion.

Bale edged in front of the Union backline to head home Diego Palocios’ cross. It was Bale’s first MLS Cup Playoffs goal.

McCarthy’s fourth-career MLS Cup appearance proved to be a memorable one for the 30-year-old as LAFC lifted the league title for the first time. The result also capped off a domestic double for LAFC, after the California-based club captured Supporters’ Shield earlier this year.


  1. Vacqui, although a lot of what you say is true, Tata made numerous mistakes in his roster selection, in his tactics, and in his in game adjustments. If anyone would have the CV and professional experience to transcend Mexico’s issues it should have been Tata. If El Tri doesn’t get to the quarters Tata’s reign will be a failure and his inability to break in the next generation will leave the squad worse than when he took over. Gregg may fail in Qatar but the experience and the expansion of the pool will set the US forward. Is it fair to judge Tata to a higher bar probably not but Gregg is 3-1-2 against Tata in NT games, and hasn’t lost to Tata in last three years.

  2. Both managers did a good job of making adjustments in the game. Cherundolo simply had the more talented subs. It could have gone the other way.

    Overall, it was an exciting game filled with twists and turns. As finals often turn into cagey affairs, this one was a bright shining star among finals.

      • Like Tata? That guy has run El Tri into the ground. Relying on old washed up domestic based players, can’t find a striker, refusing to call up in form players in foreign leagues. I’m joking, mostly.

      • JR

        Tata has a pretty impressive track record so I’m inclined to think that EL Tri is a pretty fucked up situation politically and otherwise, overall.

        I’m not sure there are too many managers who could have done better with that pile of crap..

        With all that he did finish above the USMNT in WC qualifying and he got them in the World Cup.

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