LAFC claims 1st MLS Cup title with shootout win over Union

Nov 5, 2022, 4:21 AM | Updated: 6:47 pm
Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia...

Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

              Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              El mexicano Carlos Vela, de Los Ángeles FC alza el trofeo de la MLS, tras ganar por penales la final al Union de Filadelfia, el sábado 5 de noviembre de 2022  (AP Foto/Marcio José Sánchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC forward Gareth Bale, left, scores the equalizing goal past Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) and goalkeeper Andre Blake during overtime in the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC players and staff celebrate after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela hoists the trophy alongside teammates after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              El mexicano Carlos Vela, de Los Ángeles FC alza el trofeo de la MLS, tras ganar por penales la final al Union de Filadelfia, el sábado 5 de noviembre de 2022  (AP Foto/Marcio José Sánchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC players and staff celebrate after defeating the Philadelphia Union in a penalty kick shootout to win the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC goalkeeper John McCarthy (77) celebrates after making a stop during a penalty kick shootout against the against the Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup soccer match, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC forward Gareth Bale, left, scores the equalizing goal past Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) and goalkeeper Andre Blake during overtime in the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC defender Sebastien Ibeagha (25) and Philadelphia Union forward Mikael Uhre (7) battle for the ball in the first half during the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner, right, plays the ball as Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) closes in during the first half of the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC midfielder Kellyn Acosta (23) scores on a free kick the deflected of a Philadelphia Union player in the first half of the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            
              Los Angeles FC forward Cristian Arango (9) and Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) battle for the ball in the first half during the MLS Cup soccer match Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A weary Carlos Vela reluctantly checked out of the MLS Cup final in the 97th minute, giving way to Gareth Bale in a tense 2-2 game.

Los Angeles FC’s first player and longtime captain had no idea this epic final had only begun to exhaust him and everybody else involved in the most dramatic championship game in Major League Soccer’s 27-year history.

“For the first 10, 15 minutes, it was a Halloween movie,” Vela said. “And then we finish with a Hollywood movie.”

Bale tied the score 3-3 on a dramatic header in the eighth minute of extra-time stoppage time, backup goalkeeper John McCarthy stopped two Philadelphia shots in the shootout, and LAFC beat the Union 3-0 on penalty kicks to claim its first MLS Cup championship in spectacular fashion Saturday.

The afternoon ended with an LA celebration including confetti and movie stars, capping this expansion team’s five-year journey to the pinnacle of Major League Soccer. The final step in that journey was wilder and longer than anybody could have expected, but LAFC was strong enough to finish.

“The game had a little bit of everything, for sure,” said LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta, who scored the first goal. “Goals galore. PKs. It was a roller coaster. It was crazy. It was an incredible game. It was a collective effort. We’re proud of this moment, but we really earned it, and we’re excited.”

The two late second-half goals that forced extra time were soon followed by the two very latest goals in league history — the first by Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott in the 124th minute, and the second by Bale to snatch the title from the Union’s grasp.

Bale equalized even with LAFC down to 10 men after goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau badly injured a leg while committing a red-card foul on Cory Burke — a foul that might have saved a goal, but which also is likely to force the Canadian to miss the World Cup.

“I saw his face, and we saw his emotion,” said McCarthy, who won the MLS Cup MVP award. “To me, that’s the play of the game. If he slides and misses, then it’s 3-2 and who knows how the game is going to end. He made a big-time decision by coming out and making that play. I’m devastated for him, because it’s a serious injury and it looks like he is going to miss the World Cup. You are not coming out of this game for a Band-Aid.”

McCarthy, the Philadelphia native and former Union keeper who had exactly one previous game of MLS action for LAFC this season, was forced into action — and he performed flawlessly. McCarthy didn’t allow a goal on the Union’s three attempts, watching Gazdag slip and sky Philadelphia’s first attempt over the crossbar, then diving to make saves on José Martínez and Kai Wagner.

“To be a Philly kid and play against my hometown team is something special,” McCarthy said. “I would root for them any day of the week except that one.”

After Cristian Tello was saved by Andre Blake, Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead and Ilie Sanchez converted penalty kicks for LAFC in the shootout.

“You feel for their goalkeeper when he gets stretchered off,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “(McCarthy is a) great kid, a Philly kid who did great things in Philadelphia. Soccer 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 penalty kicks.”

Sánchez sealed the victory and led his teammates off to celebrate in front of LAFC’s roiling North End of standing supporters at Banc of California Stadium. The rest of the ecstatic, black-clad home crowd included everyone from LAFC fans Justin Bieber and Colin Hanks to team co-owners Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson.

LA became the eighth team in MLS history to win both the Supporters’ Shield as regular-season champion and the MLS Cup playoff tournament.

“This place deserves this,” said first-year coach Steve Cherundolo, who engineered the huge turnaround by a team that missed the postseason last year. “These fans are amazing. They deserve a Cup, and they got it.”

Acosta scored in the first half for LAFC on a free kick that deflected off Jack McGlynn’s head, and Philadelphia top scorer Daniel Gazdag tied it early in the second. Jesús David Murillo headed home a tiebreaking goal for LAFC in the 83rd minute off a corner from Vela, but Elliott evened it again two minutes later.

McCarthy yielded Elliott’s second goal of the game to put Philadelphia ahead — but in the eighth of a scheduled nine minutes of stoppage time, the 33-year-old Bale drilled home a thrilling header off Diego Palacios’ excellent cross for the Welsh superstar’s third MLS goal and first in three months.

Bale, who left Real Madrid during the summer with an eye on preparation for Wales’ World Cup appearance later this month, was getting his first minutes with LA since Oct. 2. His next match figures to be Wales’ World Cup opener against the U.S. on Nov. 21.

“It’s Gareth being Gareth,” Cherundolo said. “Big qualities and makes big plays. Let’s hope he doesn’t do it in the first World Cup game. He makes a difference in games. I wish he was 24.”

___

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

2nd ex-NC State athlete sues school in sexual abuse case

A second former North Carolina State athlete sued the school Wednesday alleging he was sexually abused by the Wolfpack’s former director of sports medicine under the guise of treatment. The lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Robert Murphy Jr. of improperly touching the athlete’s genitals and elsewhere between two separate occasions in 2016. The plaintiff’s […]
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Joshua Williams (23) intercepts the ball against the Cincinnati Benga...
Associated Press

Unheralded group of Chiefs get redemption in Super Bowl hunt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have some of the biggest names in the NFL, from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce to Chris Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster, yet they’re playing in their third Super Bowl in four years largely because they refused to give up on players only their most-passionate fans know […]
2 days ago
FILE - This is a 2022 photo of Josh Sills of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL football team. Josh Sills,...
Associated Press

Eagles reserve lineman accused of rape ahead of Super Bowl

CAMBRIDGE, Ohio (AP) — Josh Sills, a reserve offensive lineman for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, has been indicted on rape and kidnapping charges that stem from an incident in Ohio just over three years ago, authorities said Wednesday. Sills, an undrafted free agent who appeared in just one game this season, was placed on […]
2 days ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule looks on before an NFL football game against the San...
Associated Press

AP source: Rhule files $5M arbitration suit vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Nebraska football coach Matt Rhule has filed an arbitration suit with the NFL against the Carolina Panthers seeking about $5 million in offset severance compensation, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Rhule was fired as Panthers head coach on Oct. 10. He has since […]
2 days ago
Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart tries to score during the first half of a WNBA basketball gam...
Associated Press

Stewart heads to New York on first day of WNBA free agency

Former MVP Breanna Stewart is headed to New York. The most coveted free agent this offseason, who won the WNBA MVP award in 2018, announced on social media that she was going to New York with a photo of her in a Liberty shirt on Wednesday. Stewart had spent her entire career in Seattle since […]
2 days ago
Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) is pressured by Liberty's Grant Buckey (72) during the seco...
Associated Press

4-star QB Rashada commits to Arizona State after UF NIL flap

Blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada, who signed with Florida in December and then asked to be released from the commitment when a name, imagine and likeness deal fell through, says he is going to Arizona State. Rashada announced on Twitter on Wednesday, the first day of the traditional signing period for high school football players, that […]
2 days ago
LAFC claims 1st MLS Cup title with shootout win over Union