Tuesday, July 23, 2024

LAFC captures MLS Cup in thrilling shootout over Philadelphia

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Soccer games typically conclude after 90 minutes.

But Saturday’s MLS Cup final at Banc of California Stadium was just getting started at that point.

Following an incredible contest, arguably the best match in MLS history, the Los Angeles Football Club claimed its first title over the Philadelphia Union, relying on backup goalkeeper John McCarthy to shut down the Eastern Conference winners in penalty kicks

After 120 minutes, the No. 1 seeds played themselves to an incredulous 3-3 scoreline, with goals alternating between the two until Gareth Bale equalized deep into extra time.

LAFC lost its starting goalkeeper, Maxime Crepeau, as the match wound down to its dramatic conclusion. Crepeau made a challenge on a Union breakaway. The resulting red card on Crepeau, who suffered a broken leg and was carted off the field, forced McCarthy onto the pitch and put LAFC down a man in the final frantic minutes of open play.

Despite playing the fewest minutes of any player Saturday, McCarthy was named the MLS Cup MVP when the backup stopped a pair of shots with diving saves in the shootout, providing LAFC midfielder Ilie Sanchez with the chance to take the game winner.

Facing down Andre Blake, the 2022 MLS goalkeeper of the year, Sanchez struck the decisive score directly in front of LAFC’s 3252 supporters in the North End.

Sanchez’s finish secured the Cup 3-0 in penalties.

The Spaniard, who signed with LAFC as a free agent before the season, added to successful penalties by Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead.

LAFC’s other Spaniard, Cristian Tello, opened LAFC’s attempts against Blake but missed a weak shot that the Jamaican had no trouble stopping.

With a chance to put the Union in front, Daniel Gazdag, their leading scorer, slipped and skied his shot over the crossbar.

McCarthy, whose last game came in a friendly against Club America in July that ended in a penalty kick defeat for LAFC, made two diving saves to keep Philadelphia from scoring – first against Jose Martinez, then Kai Wagner.

LAFC opened the scoring in the first half when Kellyn Acosta scored off a set piece. Philadelphia tied it when Gazdag smashed a shot past Crepeau an hour into the match.

The teams traded goals after the 80th minute. Los Angeles center back Jesus Murillo gave his side a fleeting lead but Union center back Jack Elliott responded two minutes later.

More to come on this story.

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