A reserve goalkeeper entering just his third Major League Soccer match of the season enabled the Los Angeles Football Club to win the MLS Cup.
John McCarthy stopped two penalty kicks as LAFC defeated the Philadelphia Union on penalties, 3-0, after playing to a 3-3 draw after 120 minutes in front of 22,384 at the Banc of California Stadium.
McCarthy, who entered the game in the 117th minute when starter Maxime Crepeau received a red card, stopped two of the Union’s three spot kicks. McCarthy dived to his right to deny Jose Martinez, then dived to his left to deflect Kai Wagner’s attempt.
As a result of his unexpected efforts, McCarthy was voted the game’s most valuable player.
Daniel Gazdag, the first of Philadelphia’s penalty takers, launched his shot high over the crossbar. Gazdag tied for second among league scorers during the regular season with 22 goals.
Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead and Ilie Sanchez converted for Los Angeles, with Sanchez’s shot bouncing under diving goalkeeper Andre Blake to give his club the championship.
Crepeau was expelled in the 117th minute after tripping the Union’s Cory Burke on a breakaway. Crepeau charged off his line and tripped Burke while out of the penalty area. Both players went sprawling, and Crepeau had to leave the field on a motorized card. But while leaving, the Canadian international gave a “thumbs up” sign to the home fans.
The Union rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the 124th minute. Wagner sent a cross from the right wing that hit Sanchez near the goal line. McCarthy deflected the ball but Jack Elliott scored from two yards.
But four minutes later, Wales international Gareth Bale tied the score. Bale, who replaced Carlos Vela in the 97th minute, converted a seven-yard header off Diego Palacios’ right-wing cross.
LAFC used Kellyn Acosta’s 26-yard free kick in the 28th minute to move ahead, 1-0. After the Union’s Jose Martinez fouled Cristian Arango, Acosta’s free kick ricocheted off the head of Philadelphia’s Jack McGlynn, who leapt with the defensive wall. Blake, playing the expected angle, found himself out of position as the ball trickled between him and the left post.
After the goal, Martinez used his jersey to hide the bottom half of his face.
McGlynn started for midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, the Union’s captain. Bedoya injured his hip flexor on 17 September against Atlanta and missed three of the ensuing five matches, including the final and the 20 October playoff match against FC Cincinnati.
Gazdag tied the score in the 59th minute. Wagner began the scoring sequence with a left-wing corner kick that LAFC’s Jesus Murillo headed away. But Philadelphia’s Olivier Mbaizo secured the ball at midfield and passed to Martinez, who found an unmarked Gazdag in the penalty area. Gazdag beat his marker and converted a rising 11-yard shot that settled under the crossbar.
LAFC regained a 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute. Vela’s corner kick from the right wing found Jesus Murillo, whose glancing header from just outside right side of the goalkeeper’s crease settled inside the far post. But two minutes later, the visitors again tied the score. Wagner sent his 38-yard free kick from the right wing to Elliott, whose 10-yard header beat Crepeau.