Los Angeles Football Club wins the Major League Soccer Championship with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over the Philadelphia Union. A victory that ensures the first championship in the history of the club.
After more than 130 minutes, the match ended in a 3-3 draw. Ultimately, Los Angeles defeated Philadelphia 3-0 in a penalty shootout. A standing ovation from 50,000 enthusiastic fans in Los Angeles celebrated “the greatest MLS game of all time.”
Top Seeds Contest Championship Game
For the second time in Major Soccer League (MLS) history, the top seeds met in the MLS Cup Final: Los Angeles Football Club versus Philadelphia Union, expansion teams that joined the league in 2018 and 2010, respectively.
During the 2022 season, LAFC and Philadelphia met once before in a thrilling game that mirrored the championship game that ended in an epic 2-2 draw.
MLS CUP – Los Angeles Football Club vs. Philadelphia Union
Steve Cherundolo’s 4-3-3 faced Jim Curtin’s 4-3-1-2.
From the first moment, the leitmotif ‘dale’ reverberated throughout the Banc of California Stadium. First doors, the players pushed each other in a fight for glory. A vibe that would permeate the entire match.
Defender Ryan Hollingshead drew his opponents with hesitant steps back, only to pounce after feigning restraint, intercepting the ball. Hollingshead then charged down the wing at right back, creating an attack as a box-to-box player.
In addition, the 6’6″ Englishman Jack Elliott awarded a yellow card for the Union in the 14th minute. Carlos Vela took over his space as a right forward, employing his characteristic style: throwing crosses with his dominant left foot.
Both sides secured their third. However, Philadelphia’s Kryptonite was the late challenger that resulted in a set piece for LAFC. In the 27th minute, Vela and Kellyn Acosta line up to take a free kick. In a brilliant display of deception, Acosta scores the dead ball, 1-0.
Then, in the 42nd minute, the end-to-end action was impressive. Nigerian-American defenseman Sebastien Ibeagha prevented Philadelphia’s fast break with a phenomenal tackle; Acosta did the same for a clearance. LAFC bombed, leading to Vela’s escape down the flank, assisting Chicho Arango on a shot that went over the crossbar.
2nd half of the game
In the 59th minute, Philadelphia tied the score on a set piece. Daniel Gazdag then leveled the match, 1-1. This was his second goal of the season at Banc of California Stadium. The Hungarian ‘attacking midfielder’ was responsible for Philadelphia’s first goal against LAFC in May.
However, Jesús Murillo proved to be a ‘great player’; his first career MLS goal came in the 83rd minute with a ‘loop header’ off a corner kick, 2–1.
Then, just a few minutes later, Philadelphia countered with a header from a set piece. Jack Elliott arrives in the clutch, 2-2. At this point, Union’s two shots on goal were capitalized as goals.
Vela fell deep in two plays with ‘deep passes’ to Denis Bouanga. Welsh legend Gareth Bale then entered the pitch in the 96th minute as a substitute for the Mexican captain.
Bale instantly made his presence known with a ‘chest trap’ followed by a one-touch volley into the box, a missed opportunity created by José Cifuentes.
At the other end, Julián Carranza jumped for a header that went wide of the goal. After that, Cristian Tello counterattacked; the former Barcelona winger crashed a shot from outside the area, saved by goalkeeper Andre Blake.
In the 109th minute, after a tremendous ‘back pass’ by Murillo, goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau charged wide for a ‘one on one’ against Jamaican striker Cory Burke.
Unfortunately, Crépeau’s bravery led to a collision that resulted in a grueling injury. As a result, the Canadian goalkeeper received a red card and was replaced by John McCarthy. However, LAFC fans applauded Crépeau’s sacrifice, as he was carried off the field on a stretcher.
Then Julián Carranza’s header to a cross was instinctively saved by McCarthy. However, an unmarked Jack Elliott scores a nanny on the deflection, putting Philadelphia ahead, 3-2.
Ultimately, LAFC would retaliate. Diego Palacios’ throw-in caused a ‘tug of war’ with Ilie Sánchez. Palacios’ quick dribble to the baseline was followed by a cross into the box. In always dramatic fashion, Gareth Bale, the 6’1″ Welshman, jumped over the 6’6″ Englishman Jack Elliott.
The Welshman extends up seven feet, burying the ball behind Blake. As a result, Bale drilled a ‘loop header’ into the mouth of the goal, displaying aerial mobility.
The scores were tied 3-3 at the end of extra time and the match went to a penalty shootout.
As penalties unfolded in front of 3252, Philadelphia missed three straight attempts; two of which were saved by McCarthy.
However, for the Union, José Martínez and Kai Wagner made the mistake of Cristian Tello: a hesitant step before the shot.
Using this problematic tactic, a player chooses deception over accuracy. In other words, they would rather fool the goalkeeper than trust him.
On the contrary, Bouanga, Hollingshead and Sánchez opted for the most reliable strategy: take a corner and kick the ball. In other words, the striker is not concerned about the goalkeeper’s dive. In the end, Ilie Sánchez killed the penalty shootout, 3-0.
LAFC wins the 2022 MLS Cup, inspiring hats off. As the team bombed in a celebratory meeting, John McCarthy was embraced by LAFC’s most underrated player, Ilie Sanchez.
Underrated player of the game
Since LAFC is overflowing with talent, elite players are left in the shadows of the stars. For example, ‘holding midfielder’ Ilie Sanchez, a brilliant LAFC acquisition ahead of the 2022 season.
Sanchez has proven to be a ‘deep’ playmaker with deep vision, creativity and passing technique throughout the season.
Also, Ilie’s IQ of using space with slow possession creates threatening plays for the opposition. After a remarkable performance, the Barcelona-born midfielder deserves the glory he earned with LAFC, a team managed to perfection by Steve Cherundolo.
In his debut season as MLS manager, Steve Cherundolo used a panoply of tactics gleaned from his time in the Bundesliga as a right-back at Hannover 96. As a result, the American boss managed to balance the egos of his studded roster. Furthermore, his impartial attitude towards featured players revealed a disciplined approach to stabilizing his workload.
However, Cherundolo’s phenomenal management is overshadowed by the elite players on the field, who perform for the stadium’s fervent patronage. As a result, the tremendous weight a trainer must carry goes unnoticed. Especially considering that a coach has made thousands of decisions before game day, patiently watching his mastery come to fruition. With good reason, the three-time World Cup veteran won the championship in his first year as head coach in Major League Soccer.
Ultimately, it is not consensus, but rather unanimous, that LAFC and their loyal fan base won the MLS Cup trophy.
Photo Credit: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire