Fans erupt in jubilation as LAFC wins first MLS Cup

LAFC fans line up in front of the giant replica of the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy, waiting to take a photo with the cup their team just brought home as champions on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, at 4 p.m. outside the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.

Edward Segal, Sports Editor

It was the 110th minute. The score was 2-2 and LAFC had been on the attack for a good portion of extra-time. The ball was played into the Union attacking half, where LAFC defender Jesus Murillo found it close to midfield. Murillo played the ball back to goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau but his pass was weak, leading to Union forward Cory Burke chasing it in an attempt to create a one-on-one scoring opportunity.

Just as Burke tapped the ball past the goalie into the penalty area, Crepeau made a late tackle and took Burke down. Crepeau suffered a leg injury and was unable to get up. The official showed him a yellow card, which was upgraded to red upon review.

This forced the team to bring in backup goalkeeper John McCarthy and play with 10 players for the remaining 10 minutes of the game.

It seemed the match was over when Union forward Jack Elliot tucked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, giving Philadelphia the edge with four minutes of stoppage time left.

But fans were treated to one of the most unlikely finishes in MLS history when LAFC found a way to score and send the game to penalties, outlasting the Union to secure their first MLS Cup title.

Hundreds of fans gather to watch the owners, executives, coaches and players of LAFC speak on stage and celebrate the championship victory on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, at 4 p.m. outside the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. (Edward Segal)

Instead of planning a formal parade, the team decided to have a party outside its stadium the day after the victory while the emotions were still fresh, mirroring the chaos that ensued in the 130 minutes of action Saturday afternoon.

Fans flocked to the stadium from all over, basking in the glory of seeing the franchise built in front of their own eyes lift the MLS Cup.

“Before the team was made, I had no interest in the MLS. But then my friend told me about this team and said I should go. So I went to the game,” said Antonio Varela about how he became a fan five years ago. “I see in the stadium people singing, jumping, dancing, everybody getting together. It felt like a union. And little by little, I became a fan of the team.”

Mariachi las Catrinas’ music lured fans to the lawn in front of the stadium, while a replica of the MLS Cup awaited a photo-op with fans on the other side of the field.

Kids climbed onto their parents’ shoulders as they tried to see what was happening. A makeshift bar called the Black & Gold Cantina stood facing the stadium, serving beer to those of age. A Chucky doll could even be seen above the heads of the onlookers.

People held up flags of various Latin American countries, while drones circled overhead, filming the event from a bird’s-eye view.

Dalton Foster, a videographer who brought his drone to gain experience behind the camera while supporting his team, was surprised to see LAFC at the top so quickly.

“I kinda thought they would be an underdog for a while, and I know a lot of people compared them to the Los Angeles Clippers, … like … the little sibling to the [Los Angeles] Galaxy. But I think they’re a little more than that,” said the former California State University, Long Beach student. “Honestly, this was the greatest MLS game I’ve ever seen in my life.”

The champions took a victory lap on their double-deckers, guided around the lawn by people with flaming red torches. Fireworks exploded into the night sky as black-and-gold confetti flew through the air.

Members of the organization from every level, ranging from co-owners and executives to coaches and players, came to speak on stage. Christina Crepeau, the wife of the goalkeeper who went down with an injury late in the game, lifted her phone to reveal her husband on video chat.

The din of the music playing through the speakers and the hundreds of fans chanting “Maxime Crepeau!” turned the night into a party like no other, with people carrying emotions over from the thriller the day before.

The Crepeau injury and the goal by Elliot were just the start of the crazy sequence that got LAFC the MLS Cup.

Two minutes after the Union goal, LAFC defender Diego Palacios dribbled the ball down to the end line just outside the 18. He centered it for forward Gareth Bale, who connected to head the ball into the top left corner in the 128th minute for the latest goal in MLS history.

Fans all over the stadium leapt out of their seats in celebration. Even Angel Ronson, a fan with a broken foot, jumped into the air after the equalizer.

“I bet it with my boys because they’re Galaxy fans. They got Philly, I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s bet.’ The last minute, they scored and I was like, ‘Dang, I lost my money,’” Ronson said. “But then [at] the last second Gareth Bale scores, and I’m over here jumping up and down, taking some shots and [celebrating].”

Bale, who came off the bench for team captain Carlos Vela after missing a month of action due to a leg injury, became the first player ever to score a goal in the finals of both the Champions League and the MLS.

Everything came full circle when in the shootout, after the teams exchanged a save and a miss, McCarthy came through to make back-to-back saves while the Union, widely considered to have one of the best goalies in the league in Andre Blake, conceded three goals in a row to lose the game.

McCarthy was named MLS Cup MVP for his heroic performance.

“If my voice is lost, it’s because I partied so f—— hard last night,” said McCarthy, who formerly played for the Union and is from Philadelphia.

He proceeded to drop multiple F-bombs while thanking the city for taking him in. And no one cared about the cursing.