Members of the Los Angeles Football Club celebrate as team captain Carlos Vela hoists the MLS Championship Cup, after a thrilling win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC got its field goal of the match from forward Kellyn Acosta (second to Vela’s right), and went on to take the match in overtime penalty kicks.

Rafu Staff and Wire Service Reports

After hours of screaming on the pitch, Kellyn Acosta almost seemed to be out of words amid the raucous clubhouse celebration.

“That was a crazy game. I don’t know how else to describe it,” he said.

Here’s how many are describing it: the greatest game in the 28-plus-year history of Major League Soccer.

Kellyn Acosta begins to celebrate after his free kick found the net in the first half of Saturday’s MLS Cup final at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC won the first title in its five-year history in a PK shootout over the Philadelphia Union after playing to a 3-3 draw in extra time. (Associated Press)

“I feel like that’s subjective,” Acosta said in the interview room a few minutes later. “But the game had a little bit of everything for sure – goals galore, going up a goal, going down a goal, scoring in the last minutes of the game, PKs; it was a roller coaster.”

Acosta with the MLS Cup: “I’m proud of this moment, but I feel like we earned it.”

The ride began in the 28th minute on Saturday, with Acosta’s free kick glancing off the head of a defender and into the goal for the first score of the 2022 MLS Cup final at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

When the smoke and confetti had finally settled, the Los Angeles Football Club had captured their first-ever title, a 3-3 draw decided on penalty kicks, 3-0, over the visiting Philadelphia Union.

The two late second-half goals that forced extra time were soon followed by the two very latest goals in league history — the first by Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott in the 124th minute, and the second by LAFC’s Gareth Bale three minutes later, to snatch the title from the Union’s grasp.

Bale equalized even with LAFC down to 10 men after goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau badly injured a leg while committing a red-card foul on Cory Burke — a foul that might have saved a goal, but also is likely to force the Canadian to miss the upcoming World Cup.

3252 Drum Director Walter Nishinaka kept the beat pulsating throughout the match.

Backup goalkeeper John McCarthy, the Philadelphia native and former Union keeper who had exactly one previous game of MLS action for LAFC this season, was forced into action — and he performed flawlessly. McCarthy didn’t allow a goal on the Union’s three attempts in the shootout, watching Dániel Gazdag slip and sky Philadelphia’s first attempt over the crossbar, then diving to make saves on José Martínez and Kai Wagner.

“It was an incredible game, and shout-out to Gareth, big goal, John McCarthy coming up big,” Acosta said. “We wish Maxime Crépeau a speedy recovery, but I just have to shout out to my teammates, the staff, the organization, 3252. It was a collective effort tonight.”

Philadelphia fans Angel Jr. and Angel Sr. cheer after the Union scored the go-ahead goal late in the second half.

The 3252 – label for the number of seats at the north end of the stadium – is the official LAFC fan section, quite possibly the most rabid in all of North American soccer.

“We really earned it, and we are really excited with making history and having the first title for the club,” he added.

Acosta, who is expected to be named to the U.S. World Cup team this week, took the free kick for goal after telling team captain Carlos Vela he felt good about the shot.

“I was like, I’ll take it, put it on target, and I was able to find the back of the net. It was a nice goal to start with and I’m happy to score it.

“It was a bit of fortune. Took a slight deflection and was able to go in the goal.”

Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)

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