Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union trade goal for goal in a 6-goal thriller Cup Final
By Matthew Olsen
Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union trade goal for goal in a 6-goal thriller Cup Final.
Los Angeles Football Club faced Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup Final, which turned out to be the greatest in history. After an action packed 6 goal game, 120 minutes wasn’t enough to separate the sides, but LAFC became victorious, winning their first ever title in penalties after reserve keeper saved 2 at the Banc of California Stadium.
It was a warm sunny Saturday evening in California on the 5th of November, both teams were eager to win in their first ever MLS Cup final in front of 22,384 fans roaring them on. Kellyn Acosta opened the scoring for LAFC in the 27th minute with a deflected freekick on the edge of the box.
Philadelphia come close to equalising in the 42nd minute when Mikael Uhre was played through one on one, but was tackled by Sebastien Ibeagha just before he shot. Philadelphia were persistent and didn’t let their heads drop - Daniel Gazdag equalising in the 58th minute after Jose Martinez’s miss-hit long shot landed at his feet at the edge of the box putting it past Maxime Crepeau.
LAFC once again proved their set piece skills with Jesus Murillo heading it home from a corner in the 82nd minute to give them the lead with only minutes remaining.
Philadelphia retaliated, proving LAFC aren’t the only team with set piece specialists when an unmarked Jack Elliot headed it in from a freekick in the 84th minute when the game looked dead and buried, making it 2-2 as the teams prepared for extra time.
In the 109th minute, Cory Burke was played through on goal when Crepeau rushed out making a horrific challenge on the edge of the box receiving a yellow card. After a commotion, referee Ismail Elfath consulted VAR who announced Crepeau denied a clear goal scoring opportunity and the card became red leaving mortified LAFC down to 10 men and with their reserve goalkeeper John McCarthy to step in.
With nine minutes added on, after a messy build up and an unreal save from McCarthy it landed to Elliot who tapped it in on the 123rd minute. After getting them to extra time he truly thought he had won them the game this time with his whole team and goalkeeper joining him in celebrating.
With the time ticking on and LAFC’s dreams of lifting the cup for the first time looking further and further away, Diego Palacios with great initiative took it down the wing, past two Philadelphia players to the by-line where he crosses it to Gareth Bale up against six foot six Elliot. The Welsh international legend leapt and headed past Andre Blake in the 127th minute, equalising with only a minute left.
With 130 minutes being played, it still wasn’t enough for either team to grab a winner, it all went down to penalties.
Cristian Tello stepped up to take the first penalty for LAFC. It was a poor penalty to the keepers left which was saved. Gazdag stepped up first for Philadelphia, slipping and putting it over the bar.
Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead both scored their penalties for LAFC while Philadelphia’s Martinez and Kai Wagner had both their penalties saved by the reserve goalkeeper.
It was all down to Llie Sanchez’s final penalty. As he walked up to the spot looking confident, he slotted it bottom right to make LAFC the Champions, lifting the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy for the first time ever.
Both teams performed well throughout the 130 minutes, proving they both have the scoring ability and endurance to take it to the wire but only one team could be victorious in the end.
In a post-match interview, Gareth Bale was asked what did the goal mean to him being able to help the team in the last minute, he replied “Of course it’s a big team effort, we’ve been working hard all season and everyone has to chip in and do their bit, but it was nice to be able to help the team and get us to 3-3 and give us that opportunity to win the title, I was happy to do so”.
Philadelphia’s manager Jim Curtin reflected on their loss, “Congratulations to LAFC, obviously an amazing game. We did everything in our power and pushed as hard as we could but it wasn’t meant to be today, we were close. I’m gutted for our players they obviously give everything for the badge, the club and the city but kind of at a loss for words as this is a heart-breaking loss”.