Thanks to Cristian “Chicha” Arango, Los Angeles FC reached the MLS Cup Final for the first time. Aranga scored a valiant goal for the second straight game on Sunday in LAFC’s 3-0 win over FC Austin in the Western Conference Finals.
LAFC, who won the Supporters Shield as the best team in the regular season, will host the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon. LAFC has won 11 of its last 12 games (including the postseason) at home.
This is Toronto’s first time in 2017 that the Supporters Shield winner has advanced to the MLS championship game.
“Our guys did a great job,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “It was the best I’ve seen, executing our game from start to finish. I’m very proud of the guys, but what I felt in the locker room was a hunger and a desire for more.”
Aranga headed home Carlos Velo’s pass in the 29th minute to put LAFC on top. The forward has scored in 26 of the 52 MLS games he has played since making his debut in August last season. He is an MVP finalist after scoring 30 goals in the regular season.
“It was fundamental that our team came out with compact pressure. We were all assertive. It was so we could go into halftime with a lead,” Aranga said after the game.
Maximiliano Urruti scored an own goal in the second half and substitute Kwadwo Opoku added a late winner.
After Uruti’s own goal in the 62nd minute, Opoku took advantage of a turnover and left-footed a shot past Austin goalkeeper Brad Staver.
“Big credit to LAFC, they made it difficult for us,” Austin coach Josh Wolfe said. “They’ve been the better team all year and this is another example of that. They were not allowed to breathe or build.”
FC Austin finished second in the Western Conference in their second season in MLS and had a record of 16-10-8 during the regular season.
“There is great pride in what we have been able to build in two years. We’ll have to build on that next year,” Wolff said.
Philadelphia Union 3-1 New York City FC
Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag scored two minutes apart in the second half and the Philadelphia Union advanced to their first MLS Cup final with a 3-1 victory over New York City FC. Corey Burke also scored in the conference final for Union, who are unbeaten in 19 home games this season.
Gazdag looked to have scored for Union in the 16th minute but was offside. In the 57th minute, Maxi Morales made a great shot that flew past Andre Blake to give NYCFC a 1-0 lead.
Union tied the score in the 65th, scoring Carranza’s first career playoff goal. Moments later, Carranza sent a header past Gazdag, who scored to give Philadelphia the lead. Burke added a third goal in the 76th.
It was the second year in a row that the teams reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Last season, the Union were without 11 players due to Covid-19 protocols and NYCFC won 2-1. New York City defeated the Portland Timbers in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in the MLS Cup.