Gareth Bale received a hero’s welcome during LAFC’s celebratory parade on Sunday afternoon. He was called up on stage and presented to the fans as the club celebrated their first MLS Cup.
LAFC beat the Philadelphia Union on penalties to secure their first victory in the MLS Cup final. However, it was Bale who stole the show. He scored a 129th-minute equalizer to keep LAFC’s hopes alive following Jack Elliott’s second goal of the game.
The Welshman, who started the game on the bench after struggling to cement his place in the starting XI since arriving from Real Madrid this summer, beat Union goalkeeper Andre with a powerful header late in the game to take the contest to penalties.
Introduced in the 97th minute for club captain Carlos Vela, Bale made the difference when it mattered most – pushing back against some criticisms that follow a player of his global profile.
“He’s a guy with big qualities and a guy who makes big plays,” said head coach Steve Cherundolo. “Let’s hope he doesn’t in the first game of the World Cup for all the Americans in the room.
“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.”
LAFC looked as though they had lost the MLS Cup final after defender Elliott scored his second goal of the game in the 124th minute.
LAFC – who were a man down after Maxime Chepau was handed a red card – showed next to no signs of getting back into the game.
However, things changed once Bale was subbed on in the 97th minute. The Welsh international – who has hardly featured for the club since joining in the summer – scored an equaliser to take the game to penalties.
LAFC went on to win 3-0 on penalties to secure their first ever MLS Cup at the Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.
LAFC were the best team in MLS this season, becoming just the eight club to win both the MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield in the same season.
LAFC are the first club to accomplish the double since Toronto FC in 2017.