Gareth Bale may not have played as much as he or Los Angeles FC would have wanted this season. However, he has now scored the most important goal in their history, as his equaliser in the 128th minute against the Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup final forced a penalty shootout that LAFC went on to win.
The Los Angeles side had been leading the game at half-time from Kellyn Acosta’s free kick that deflected into the net. However, an equaliser came early in the second half when Jose Martinez fired the ball to Daniel Gazdag who finished high into the net.
Steve Cherundolo’s side retook the lead in the 83rd minute, as Carlos Vela’s cross was headed in by Jesus Murillo, but Philadelphia pegged them back again two minutes later as Kai Wagner’s free kick was turned in by a Jack Elliott header.
The match went to extra-time and LAFC brought on two of their designated players in Bale and Cristian Tello. Although disaster struck in the 116th minute as their goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was sent off. Crepeau was injured following his foul on Cory Burke and had to be taken off on a stretcher.
Gareth Bale scored a key goal to bring the MLS Cup to LA
With the man advantage, Jim Curtin’s side took the lead in the 124th minute as Elliot bundled the ball over the line. Philadelphia players celebrated, expecting this goal to be the winner, only to be crushed when Bale popped up to head in Diego Palacios’ cross in the 128th minute to force the game to penalties. The Welshman ran over to his supporters, showing passion and relief at equalising so late on for his side.
Tello stepped up first in the shootout, but his tame penalty was saved by Andre Blake. However, Gazdag, Martinez and Wagner all missed their kicks for Philadelphia whilst Denis Bouanga and Ryan Hollingshead both converted theirs. This allowed Ilie Sanchez the chance to win the MLS Cup for LAFC, and he delivered – slotting his penalty into the bottom corner to hand LAFC the trophy for the very first time.
Bale’s impact at LAFC
For LAFC, Bale has played 13 times (almost always them off the bench) and scored three goals. Much is talked about signing big names in MLS at the end of their careers or whether the teams should be targeting much younger talent, but Bale has delivered in the biggest moment for his club and has undoubtedly boosted the club’s profile.
His late goal in the MLS Cup final will go down in the history of North American soccer and will be echoed around the world.
Bale is still under contract to LAFC until June 2023, but it will be interesting to see how he fares after the World Cup in Qatar. It is his first time at a World Cup, as Wales has not played in one since 1958. He is 33 now and is coming to the end of his career, having won everything at club level with Real Madrid. He has delivered the MLS Cup and now gets to represent his county on the world stage – a career which has left him little more to achieve.
The USMNT play Wales on the 21st of November at the World Cup. This match will certainly have a lot of hype around it, seeing LAFC’s MLS Cup hero Bale playing against their nation.
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