Gareth Bale’s dramatic late goal helped Los Angeles Football Club win the Major League Soccer Cup for the first time in a thrilling, frenetic final against Philadelphia Union at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
Jack Elliott appeared to have won the game for Philadelphia when he scored in stoppage time of extra time, but a header from substitute Bale minutes later tied the game at 3-3 and forced a penalty shootout that left LAFC 3- 0 won.
“It’s always nice to score in finals, and I seem to have a talent for that,” Bale, who joined LAFC from Real Madrid earlier this year, told reporters after the game. “It’s big. It’s important for the club. It’s important for the fans.”
With Real Madrid, Bale scored three times in the Champions League final, including a stunning bicycle kick against Liverpool in 2018.
“The reason I came here was to try and help the club win the MLS Cup,” added the Wales international.
“You can see how happy everyone is now – the fans, the city. It’s important for this club to move to the next level, and I think winning this trophy shows that we are.”
LAFC opened the scoring in Saturday’s final via a deflected free kick from Kellyn Acosta in the 28th minute.
Trailing 1-0 at the start of the second half, Dániel Gazdag of the Union scored the equalizing goal when he picked up José Martínez’s kick in the penalty area.
The game remained tied until the 83rd minute when the goal by Jesús Murillo gave Los Angeles the lead again. That lead wouldn’t last too long, though, as Union’s Jack Elliott scored a header to force extra time.
In the 110th minute, LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau was shown a yellow card for a foul on Philadelphia’s Cory Burke.
Both players were injured by the foul and the card turned red when Crépeau was sent off with an injury. Burke stayed in the game, while LAFC backup goalkeeper John McCarthy was brought in to finish the game.
Union’s Elliott got going in stoppage time and scored to put his side ahead with about five minutes to go.
But just as the Union thought to secure the championship, Bale produced the equalizer late in the closing moments of stoppage time to force a penalty streak.
McCarthy, who hails from Philadelphia, was the hero for Los Angeles when he saved two penalties in the shootout, while LAFC scored on three of his four attempts, including the goal that secured the championship for Ilie Sánchez.
That caused the home crowd to go crazy as players and coaches rushed onto the field to celebrate the win.
McCarthy was named the 2022 MLS Cup Most Valuable Player after the match.