Los Angeles FC have won the first MLS Cup in the club’s history following a penalty shoot-out win over Philadelphia Union.
Gareth Bale came on as a late substitute for LAFC after sitting out the play-offs with a wrist injury, rose up to head a cross from Diego Palacios over Union’s Jack Elliott in the 128th minute to level the score at 3-3.
LAFC then won the shootout 3-0 to win the title for the first time.
Ilie Sanchez scored the decisive penalty to deliver the championship to end the most wild and entertaining final in the North American league’s 27-year history.
Man of the Match John McCarthy, who took over after Maxime Crepeau was taken off the field following a hard collision with Cory Burke, met the moment to secure the 3-0 victory on penalties.
“It’s always nice to score in finals, and I seem to have a knack for doing that,” said Bale. “It’s big. It’s important for the club. It’s important for the fans.”
LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said of Bale’s equalizer: “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 those moments.”
Bale’s return to fitness and his significant contribution to the win comes at a good time for Wales, who name their World Cup squad on Wednesday before the tournament in Qatar starts on 20 November.
“The reason why I came here was to try and help the club win the MLS Cup,” said Bale.
“You can see how happy everybody is now, the fans, the city. It’s important for this club to go to the next level, and I think by winning this trophy, it shows that we are.
“It’s a club really on the rise doing the right things and it’s an important trophy for us, especially the first one, first major trophy, and hopefully there’s more to come in the future.”