LOS ANGELES — LAFC won its first-ever MLS Cup title, beating the Philadelphia Union 3-0 on penalty kicks after a thrilling, rollercoaster final at Los Angeles’ Banc of California Stadium on Saturday finished 3-3 after extra time.
Substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy, in just his second appearance for the club, was LAFC’s hero, coming off the bench late in extra time and saving two penalties in the shootout against his hometown club.
Only minutes earlier, Philadelphia looked to have won the trophy for the first time when Jack Elliott scored his second goal of the game from close range in stoppage time at the end of extra time. By that point, LAFC had been reduced to 10 men after a red card for goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau minutes earlier.
But Welsh star Gareth Bale, who came off the bench in extra time, miraculously levelled for LAFC in the 128th minute with the latest goal in MLS history.
That followed a similarly breathless end to regulation time.
Jesus Murillo put LAFC 2-1 ahead with seven minutes left in regulation time, but Philadelphia equalized almost immediately through Elliott’s first goal.
All four goals in regulation time came from set-pieces, with Kellyn Acosta giving LAFC a 27th-minute lead through a deflected free kick before Daniel Gazdag pounced to level for the Union following a half-cleared corner.
The result means LAFC becomes the first team since Toronto FC in 2017 to win both the Supporters’ Shield, as the best regular season team, and MLS Cup. Saturday’s matchup was the first time since 2003 that the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference had faced off in MLS’ showpiece matchup.
Midfielder Ilie Sanchez scored the winning penalty for LAFC in the shootout, following successful efforts by Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead. Philadelphia failed to find the net from the spot, with McCarthy diving to deny Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner, and Daniel Gazdag slipping and sending his effort high over the crossbar.