Inspirational Carlos Vela guides LAFC to first MLS Cup

LAFC reached its first MLS Cup thanks to two well-taken Carlos Vela corners — the first met by Chicho Arango, the second an unfortunate Maxi Urruti own goal — and a late Kwadwo Opoku strike to defeat Austin FC 3-0 in the Western Conference final. 

Thanks to its status as Supporters' Shield winner, LAFC will host MLS Cup at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5 against the winner of the Eastern Conference final between the Philadelphia Union and NYCFC.   

LAFC took a deserved first-half lead in the 29th minute when Arango (who scored the winner against the Galaxy last round) got on the end of Vela's service and planted a header beyond Brad Stuver.  

LAFC should've had more, but José Cifuentes struck the post and Stuver denied Vela with one of his four saves in the opening 45. Austin needed a complete shift in the second half and more from attacking talisman Sebastián Driussi, and there was increased hope of that after Giorgio Chiellini was taken off at halftime because of a tactical shift by manager Steve Cherundolo.

But the first 15 minutes were no different with Stuver making a few saves and Austin offering very little going forward. Josh Wolff turned to his bench with Urruti and Ethan Finlay replacing Moussa Djitté and Emiliano Rigoni. 

Urruti's very first contribution? The Austin striker took a Vela corner directly to the face and directed an effort inside his own goal. Based on what we'd seen through 62 minutes, that felt like game.

Austin thought it had a penalty in the 70th minute when the VAR brought the referee to the monitor to look at Sebastien Ibeagha trodding on Diego Fagúndez's toe at the edge of the area, but the ref still wasn't convinced and stuck with his initial decision. 

Austin would have to do it themselves, but they didn't get a shot on target until the 80th minute. Shortly after that, Opoku made it 3-0 after a strange series of events left the Ghanaian alone at the top of the box.

Gareth Bale didn't get off the bench, but he's one win from lifting MLS Cup. He could soon have as many trophies (two) as he does goals (two) in MLS.

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