The football gods must be crazy. This is well known, after all, they regularly come up with things for which the human mind lacks imagination. For example, this one in the North American MLS Football League: Gareth Bale, who moved to the United States only to get fit for his country’s first World Cup participation since 1958, scored in the eighth minute of extra time. On time 3-3 he sent that final to a penalty shootout – his club Los Angeles FC beat Philadelphia Union and won the title.
Now you can say: Gareth Bale, substitution in the crucial end goal – you don’t have to bother the football gods, you can also say: Classic Bale. In the 2018 Champions League final, he scored two goals against Liverpool for Real Madrid after coming on as a substitute with a side kick and a shot from 40 meters, and scored the two important goals against Austria for Wales in March despite injury. So: the ball hits exactly the third touch of the ball — there’s no real miracle now, is there?
That’s right, which is why Bale’s goal was the third most remarkable event to go down in history as the craziest game in this league. It was high and of course – again: 3: 3 came in the 128th minute – an exciting final, which they consider not only the end of the season, but also a precursor to the World Cup. Once again, it’s about getting Americans excited about this often amazing sport, along with its gods doing wondrous things.
On American television, they are currently broadcasting a World Cup commercial in an ongoing loop, in which actor Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) plays Santa Claus, who opens letters from American children – all of whom want nothing more than a World Cup title. for the United States of America. In 2026, at the World Cup in their country, they would like to be among the favorites – but why not this year, in this strange World Cup in Qatar. “I think we will win” is the rallying cry from the fans, and nothing can describe this final better than believing in it.
LAFC is the club of ordinary people
Then, I collected all things curious, starting with the situation: This final happened in Los Angeles, so people made the pilgrimage to the stadium downtown and then sang for about three hours – because LAFC is the club of normal people, Shaimaa is right there in the Galaxy with Beckham and Ibrahimovic. Only: in the evening there was amphitheater, not even a stone’s throw away, the USC vs. Cal football match; Tradition 107 years ago. In professional baseball, the Phillies played the Houston Astros in the Finals Series for Survival. Los Angeles and Philly, both cities were ready for an exhilarating sports day.
The match initially went as expected: LAFC, the most successful club of the regular season, dominated, taking the lead with a skewed free kick from Kellyn Acosta. Al Ittihad, designed to counterattack, equalized midway through the second half via Daniel Gazdag. Los Angeles regained the lead seven minutes before the end when Jesus Morilla headed a corner kick. Everyone thought, but then this game really began – just like the 1970 World Cup semi-final between Germany and Italy, which, of all things, needed Karl-Heinz Schellinger’s Italian goal to become the game of the century.
Now buckle up, please: Union defender Jack Elliott, an MLS Schnelllinger who never crossed the midfield, rushed forward with a free kick – and Elliott, Elliott of all people, managed to equalize with a header and forced overtime. A small leap that will increase later: In overtime, LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crebeau snatched the Etihad striker, and the Canadian goalkeeper fractured his tibia and will miss the World Cup. For the record, he was also fired for the foul and replaced by John McCarthy.
Philadelphia pressed for the winning goal, and in the 124th minute, the fourth minute of overtime, Elliott crossed the midfield again and, after a superb save from McCarthy, pushed the ball over the line to make it 3-2. Elliott’s two goals were crazier than Bale’s four minutes later, but there was more to come.
Los Angeles won because substitute goalkeeper McCarthy—who was born in Philadelphia and played for the Union early in his career—did not allow a single penalty kick. He saved two, one flew over his line. McCarthy said nothing when introduced with his man of the match, only shaking his head in disbelief, tears welling up in his eyes. Opinion: The football gods must be crazy.
Greater Context: A high-quality finale on the football-only arena in downtown Los Angeles; In front of a well-informed and ecstatic audience. No, you don’t have to ask Santa Claus to explain the sport to Americans. They now have a very good league producing finals like the one they had on Saturday. Now you can already believe, and perhaps the craziest message of the MLS season, that something is going to happen with football in the United States.
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