LAFC were crowned MLS Cup champions for the first time as they beat the Philadelphia Union 3-0 on penalties following an incredible 3-3 draw.
Having already sealed the Supporters’ Shield during the regular season, LAFC were given home advantage in this winner-takes-all showdown. After a scrappy opening to the match, the Black and Gold struck first with Kellyn Acosta’s 27th-minute free-kick taking a huge deflection off the head of Jack McGlynn to find the back of the net.
LAFC carried that lead into half-time, but could only hold onto it for 14 minutes after the break when Daniel Gazdag picked up a misfired Jose Martinez shot and calmly finished beyond Maxime Crepeau to level the scores.
Both sides traded blows in a hard-fought second half and LAFC center-back Jesus Murillo thought he’d won the game in the 83rd minute when he headed home a Carlos Vela cross. However, just two minutes later, fellow center-back Jack Elliott leveled the scores again with a header of his own.
Extra-time followed and after an extended standoff between the two teams, disaster struck when Crepeau rushed out to stop Union substitute Cory Burke racing in on goal. However, the Canadian ‘keeper missed the ball and brought down Burke, while appearing to suffer a broken leg in the process.
To make matters worse, Crepeau was sent off for the foul, meaning Steve Cherundolo had to bring off Kwadwo Opoku in order to get back-up goalkeeper John McCarthy onto the field.
Deep into stoppage time, with penalties looming, Elliott took his turn to think he’d won the game, firing home a rebound right on the line after an excellent save from McCarthy. However, Gareth Bale had other ideas, beating Elliott in the air at the other end to deliver a 128th-minute equalizer and a penalty shootout.
McCarthy proved himself the hero in the shootout against his hometown club, saving from both Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, while Daniel Gazdag slipped and fired the ball over the bar. Andre Blake managed to keep out Cristian Tello’s opening effort, but Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead, and Ilie Sanchez stepped up to deliver MLS Cup.
Read on for player ratings from a breathless MLS Cup showdown at Banc of California Stadium:
GK: Maxime Crepeau – 5/10 – Needed help from his defense on the goals. Solid otherwise. Suffered a horrific injury in extra-time and was given a red card for his troubles.
RB: Ryan Hollingshead – 7/10 – Did a good job defensively and had the odd promising moment in the final third. Scored in the shootout.
CB: Jesus Murillo – 6/10 – A sloppy performance in which Murillo often seemed more concerned about getting under the skin of Union players rather than actually defending. Made up for it somewhat with LAFC’s second goal.
CB: Sebastien Ibeagha – 8/10 – Probably wouldn’t have expected to start but repaid Cherundolo with a few huge interventions inside his own box.
LB: Diego Palacios – 7/10 – Was lively going forward but kept Gazdag onside for the first equalizing goal. Assisted Bale’s dramatic late equalizer.
CM: Jose Cifuentes – 5/10 – Not Cifuentes’ best afternoon. Just couldn’t get going.
CM: Ilie Sanchez – 7/10 – Moved the ball with authority and always looked to get LAFC moving forward. Scored the winning penalty.
CM: Kellyn Acosta – 8/10 – Scored the opening goal (with a little help from McGlynn’s head) and really put himself about on both sides of the ball.
RW: Carlos Vela – 8/10 – Always looked capable of making things happen when he had the ball. Provided the assist for LAFC’s second.
ST: Cristian Arango – 5/10 – Starved of service with only a few half-chances to feed off. Worked hard for the team but was brought off with 15 minutes of the 90 remaining.
LW: Denis Bouanga – 6/10 – Worked very hard without the ball but just couldn’t influence things in the attack. Nailed his penalty.
SUB: Kwadwo Opoku (74′, for Arango) – 6/10 – A few lively moments but was sacrificed to get McCarthy on the field.
SUB: Cristian Tello (91′, for Acosta) – 2/10 – Barely tested the Union defense, one long-range shot aside. Awful penalty in the shootout.
SUB: Gareth Bale (97′, for Vela) – 9/10 – Gareth Frank Bale just loves finals.
SUB: John McCarthy (117′, for Opoku) – 9/10 – Wouldn’t have expected to even play, let alone make two saves to win the shootout and Cup for LAFC. Give him the keys to the city.
GK: Andre Blake – 7/10 – Could do nothing about the goals. Commanded his box with authority and made a save in the shootout.
RB: Olivier Mbaizo – 6/10 – A solid all-round performance without too many fireworks.
CB: Jakob Glesnes – 6/10 – Wasn’t overly worked defensively but did give away some cheap fouls around his own box. Tidy on the ball.
CB: Jack Elliott – 9/10 – Was Union’s best player, gobbling up almost everything at the back and scoring not once, but twice. We said ‘almost everything’ as Bale beat him in the air for his goal.
LB: Kai Wagner – 8/10 – Did a good job of shutting Vela down and provided plenty of creativity at the other end, including assisting Elliott’s goal. Missed his penalty.
CDM: Jose Martinez – 4/10 – A mixed afternoon. Endless reserves of energy and worked hard all game, but was often sloppy with the ball and lost the run of Murillo for LAFC’s second. Credited with the assist for Gazdag’s goal but it was a miss-hit shot. Missed his penalty.
CM: Jack McGlynn – 5/10 – Neat and tidy with the ball but the Union needed more.
CM: Leon Flach – 6/10 – Barely affected the game with the ball but worked very hard without it as always.
CAM: Daniel Gazdag – 8/10 – The Union’s most dangerous player, scoring the first equalizer, creating a few chances, and causing LAFC trouble with his movement between the lines. Brutal slip in the shootout.
ST: Julian Carranza – 6/10 – A couple of dangerous moments but struggled in the physical battle against LAFC’s center-backs.
ST: Mikael Uhre – 5/10 – Only really had one good sight at goal in what was an extremely quiet afternoon for the Danish striker.
SUB: Cory Burke (71′, for Uhre) – 5/10 – Injured in the challenge that saw Crepeau both red-carded and stretchered off the field, forcing him out of the game as well.
SUB: Paxten Aaronson (84′, for McGlynn) – 5/10 – Struggled to get going in what appears to be his final Union appearance.
SUB: Chris Donovan (121′, for Burke) – N/A
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