LAFC Wins MLS Cup 2022!
LAFC and Banc of California Stadium opened their doors to welcome the Philadelphia Union for the 2022 MLS Cup Finals. The top two teams of each conference went toe-to-toe for MLS Supremacy. Both teams looking for their first ever MLS Cup. LAFC, the heavy favorites, were in search of completing the domestic double. While the Philadelphia Union wanted to put a stamp on a stupendous season. In the end LAFC would lift the cup but not without drama, excitement, and an instant classic at the Banc of California.
First Half Analysis
It would be a shaky start for both sides as finals typically are and the two teams were feeling each other out in the first 15 minutes. Slowly LAFC began to take more and more control of the match. Still both sides proceeded with caution as they did not want to make a mistake. It would be a lost ball by midfielder Jose Martinez that helped LAFC open up the scoring in the 27th minute. After the poor giveaway Vela would be fouled and awarded a freekick in a dangerous position. Both Vela and Kellyn Acosta lined up next to the ball and the shot looked more optimal for the lefty Vela. Vela faked to take the shot but stepped back and it was Acosta who struck the ball. His shot took a slight deflection off Jack McGlynn and ultimately got past MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. With this LAFC had secured a surprisingly first half lead. You could see how much this meant to all those in attendance as the stadium erupted with joy! The 3252 was in full swing singing their hearts out and they would go into the half with a lead. They would need 45 minutes of sweat and dedication if they wanted to finish the job!
Second Half Analysis
With all good things it must come to an end, and it did for LAFC. They would let themselves get tied in the 58th minute with yet again another defensive mishap. Jose Martinez would make up for his error by providing an assist to Daniel Gazdag to help the Union come to level terms. He attempted to shoot from about 30 yards, but it would up as a little dribbler, where Gazdag found himself alone in front of goal. Crepeau would dive too early and left the whole left side open for the Union striker. LAFC would then go on to lose control of the match. Timid play in the midfield saw the team lose winnable battles. Questionable decisions by Cherundolo almost caused LAFC to lose. Chicho Arango exited the game in the 74th minute and LAFC lost attacking power. However, in the 83rd minute another well executed corner kick gave LAFC the temporary lead. Jesus Murillo headed in what looked to be the game winning goal. Unfortunately, the joy would only last 120 seconds. Two minutes later Jack Elliott tied the game off a set piece. Another set piece defended horribly and LAFC paid the price. However, LAFC held on, and the game headed to extra time.
A Bonkers Extra Time
Anything that could happen, happened in extra time. Carlos Vela would only play 7 minutes of extra time before being replaced by Gareth Bale. Bale had not played at all in this postseason and still looked injured. So, this also was a questionable call. The first 15 minutes were quiet and calm. It would pick up in the final 15 minutes. In the 110th minute tragedy struck for LAFC. A bad pass from Jesus Murillo left a 50/50 ball for Maxime Crepeau and Cory Burke. A valiant Crepeau came off his line and collided with Burke and also fractured his tibia. Maxime denied a clear scoring opportunity ultimately, he saw a red card. Substitute keeper John McCarthy would replace Opoku. Remember the name as McCarthy made himself a city hero. All hope seemed lost as once again Jack Elliott put Philadelphia ahead in stoppage time. Elliott tipped the ball in and surely MLS Cup was headed to Philly. LAFC made one final push to tie the game in the 128th minute. Chiqui Palacios made a strong run to the byline. Where he floated a ball up into the area and who was on the receiving end? Mr. Finals himself, Gareth Bale! The man who steps up in the big moments scored the tying goal. Ressurecting Banc of California as they exploded with joy. The game was now headed to penalties
A Game of Chance
With the game being sent to penalty kicks, even with the momentum on LAFC’s side it felt like Philly could sneak away with the win. Let’s take a look on one side you have MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in net for Philly. For LA its the substitute John McCarthy, who just watched his partner snap his leg. It was looking like Philly could sneak away with the cup. First up was another premier signing Cristian Tello. What did he do? He gave away the first penalty, he shot it so slowly and easily even Blake was surprised. First up for Philly, Daniel Gazdag their go to clinical striker. Somehow the Gods were on LAFC’s side as Gazdag slipped and blew his shot over the bar. The shootout remained tied at 0 a piece. Up next for LAFC yet another premier signing, Denis Bouanga. The Gabonese drilled his shot into the upper left corner and gave LAFC the lead. For Philly it was Jose Martinez, the midfielder stuttered stepped his way to take the shot. The end result was a big man save from John McCarthy! Up next for LAFC, newcomer to LAFC Ryan Hollingshead. The plurifunctional wingback was as cool as can be. He sent Andre Blake diving the wrong way and buried his shot to the right. Making it 2-0 in favor of LAFC. Kai Wanger had a tremendous amount to pressure to score for Philadelphia. Having fell behind 2-0 he needed to score. He stepped up to take his shot and once again McCarthy denied him! Another strong save saw Philly needing Andre Blake to save the next penalty or they would go home empy handed. It would be another newcomer to LAFC, Ilie Sanchez who stepped up. Wearing the captains armband he stepped up and buried the game winning penalty! Sending it to the bottom right side an outstreched Blake could not get a hand to it and LAFC became the 2022 MLS Cup Champions!
The Culmination of a Five Year Journey
Five years ago LAFC played their first ever MLS game against Seattle. Winning that night 1-0, you knew something was special. In 2019 they almost reached the pinnacle of MLS but fell just short in the Western Conference Playoff. 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. 2021 was arguably their worst year and finshed outside of a playoff spot and they lowest. From the moment the 2022 season began it was going to be special. The season began with a strong core and only got better as the season went on. Adding big time names known from the MLS like Maxime Crepeau, Ryan Hollingshead, Kellyn Acosta, and Franco Escobar. Continuing the journey was Cristian ‘Chicho’ ArangoJose Cifuentes, and Mahala Opoku just to name a few. LAFC also brought in the likes of world class players such as Giorgio Chiellini, Gareth Bale, Cristian Tello, and Denis Bouanga. Only two remain from the inagural season, Carlos Vela and Latif Blessing. Both have become beloved players and they along with the rest of the team deserve this trophy. Sure they hit a rough patch in late August and throughout September, but they weathered the storm. The fighting spirit they showed makes LAFC a worthy 2022 MLS Cup Champion! To close out the 2022 season with the words of the great Carlos Vela ” Sorry It Took So Long… But Here’s The F*****G Cup”