LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo hailed Gareth Bale for his last-gasp equaliser and substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy for his shoot-out heroics amid the chaos of Saturday’s MLS Cup triumph.
Cherundolo’s side clinched the MLS Cup with a 3-0 penalty shoot-out win over Philadelphia Union after the game had ended 3-3 following regulation and added time in a incredibly dramatic final at Banc of California Stadium.
LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was sent off in the 116th minute and left with a suspected broken leg for a last-man foul after a nightmare back-pass from Jesus Murillo.
After a lengthy delay for treatment for Crepeau, Union took the lead in the 124th minute from Jack Elliott’s close-range finish, but substitute Bale sent it to penalties with a 128th-minute headed equaliser.
Bale, who has only made two starts in 13 appearances for LAFC since his move from Real Madrid in June, had been brought on in the 97th minute before his crucial intervention.
“He’s a guy with big qualities and a guy who makes big plays,” Cherundolo told reporters about 33-year-old Wales international Bale.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t in the first game of the World Cup for all the Americans in the room [Wales play USA]. But it’s Gareth being Gareth. He does it in training. He’s done it this season.
“When he’s feeling well and healthy, he makes a difference in games. That’s why we bring him in in those moments. I wish he was 24.”
HE’S GARETH ******* BALE.
— LAFC (@LAFC)
Bale, who scored twice in Madrid’s 3-1 triumph over Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final, was delighted to make his contribution with LAFC down to 10 men.
“It’s always nice to score in finals, and I seem to have a knack for doing that,” he said. “It’s big, it’s important for the club, it’s important for the fans. Like I said, we were down to 10 men, I guess not really looking like we were going to get anything out of the game.
“Credit to everybody to keep pushing and keep fighting. It was nice to get the goal and to help the team. And where it ranks, I’m not too sure but it’s a great feeling.”
Cherundolo added that he was not sure of the extent of Canada international Crepeau’s leg injury, but was full of praise for substitute McCarthy who saved two spot-kicks to decide the shoot-out and earn the MVP award.
“Couldn’t happen to a better guy,” the LAFC boss said. “John is one of the heartbeats of this team emotionally.
“We know what he can do in penalties. We’ve seen it. We’ve trained for these moments, and John came up big. Like I said, couldn’t happen to a better guy, and extremely happy for him and everybody at LAFC.”
— LAFC (@LAFC)