For a club that first took the field a half-dozen years ago, LAFC has gathered an impressive array of gold-plated postseason moments. From the club’s immediate success in its inaugural season to its lifting of the MLS Cup last November, this Top 10 list also serves as a chronological countdown.
10. First playoff game – November 1, 2018
A star-studded guest list, a pregame visit from Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, and a brand-new stadium packed beyond capacity. The 35th MLS game in LAFC history was also the club’s first-ever MLS Cup playoff match—a loser-goes-home affair between the third-seeded Black & Gold and sixth-seeded Real Salt Lake.
When LAFC forward Cristian Ramirez scored on a left-footed laser in the 54th minute, giving his team a 2-1 lead, it appeared his club’s dream season would continue. (LAFC’s 57 points remain the most ever for a first-year MLS team.) But two late scores from RSL, including a heartbreaking own goal to win it, postponed LAFC’s ascent to the Cup.
FIRST PLAYOFF WIN – October 24, 2019
The 2019 Western Conference semifinal was memorable for many reasons. It marked the sixth installment of the LAFC/Galaxy rivalry, with LAFC having never beaten its neighbors to the south. It was a matchup of the league’s top two goal scorers, LAFC’s Carlos Vela (34 goals) and the Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (30) – international legends with differing styles who had left Europe for California. The stakes were high, but only one team would advance.
9. Vela’s “Statement Goal” (16’)
Shortly after a Vela free kick clanged off the crossbar from 28 yards out, Latif Blessing won the ball back in midfield. Successive passes to Lee Nguyen, then Diego Rossi, and finally to Vela, found the captain one-v-one with a Galaxy defender inside the area. Everyone watching expected a left-footed strike, but Vela shot it with his right before Galaxy keeper David Bingham knew what had happened. The net bulged, a statement was made, and LAFC was on its way.
8. Rodriguez vs. The World (40’)
Fortieth minute; LAFC was still ahead, 1-0. Black & Gold winger Brian Rodriguez brought the crowd to life with a juke move that prompted broadcaster Taylor Twellman to exclaim, “Dear Lord,” then Rodriguez took off on a dribbling run that left two more white jerseys in his wake. A give-and-go with Blessing put Rodriguez behind the Galaxy’s back line, with the goalie charging at him. That left Vela wide open on the doorstep. A simple pass from Rodriguez led to a Vela tap-in, a 2-0 lead, and more than 100 decibels of noise.
7. The King Rises (67’)
After the Galaxy knotted the game at two, both clubs settled into a back-and-forth slugfest that lasted ten minutes without producing a goal. In the 67th, Vela was taken to the ground at the top of the Galaxy penalty area. He retained possession while on all fours, then somehow threaded a pass to Rossi that the Uruguayan forward slotted inside the far post. It was the 56th goal that either Vela or Rossi had scored during that record-setting season. Adama Diomande would add two more to secure a wild 5-3 victory and a berth in the Western Conference final.
6. A Derby Victory At The Death – October 20, 2022
A spot in the Western Conference final was also on the line last October when LAFC hosted the Galaxy again. In true El Trafico style, the match was tied 2-2 in the 93rd minute when LAFC mounted another attack. A wayward LAFC pass looked destined to cross the end line, but forward Mahala Opoku chased it anyway and – in one of the more unappreciated moments of LAFC’s 2022 MLS Cup run – pressured Galaxy defender Séga Coulibaly into tapping it out of bounds, turning goal kick into a corner kick. Seconds later, Jonathan Bond’s diving save of Dénis Bouanga’s volley landed at the feet of Chicho Arango, who did what he had done 16 times during the regular season. Ballgame.
5. Conference Final Win Over Austin – October 30, 2022
The upstarts from Austin had defeated LAFC 4-1 in their most recent matchup, so LAFC’s place in the MLS Cup final was far from a sure thing when they met Austin again at BMO Stadium one year ago this week.
A headed goal from Arango in the 29th minute, an Austin own goal in the 62nd, and a left-footed strike from Opoku gave LAFC a 3-0 win and placed them one win away from their first MLS Cup trophy.
MLS CUP FINAL – NOVEMBER 5, 2022
It has been called the greatest game in MLS history by every pundit, broadcaster, and journalist who witnessed it. LAFC’s heavyweight title fight with the Philadelphia Union produced the Top 4 moments on this list—none of which occurred in the game’s first 90 minutes.
4. Crépeau Sacrifices Body & Soul (110’)
Tie game, 2-2. Both fighters were bloodied and weary. A long ball rises out of Philadelphia’s defensive half and squirts into the path of Union forward Cory Burke, streaking all alone toward the potential Cup-winning goal. LAFC goalie Max Crépeau had a choice to make. His decision would cost him a chance to play in the upcoming World Cup and remove him from soccer for almost a year. But it allowed his team to win the most important match it had ever played.
3. Bale Equalizes (128’)
Because of Crépeau’s red card, LAFC was playing a man down when the greatest goal in club history was scored. Gareth Bale’s gravity-defying header would have earned that distinction even if the club had been at full strength.
To set the stage: LAFC was trailing 3-2 in the 128th minute and was nearly out of time, and almost out of options. Almost.
2. McCarthy Writes A Storybook Ending
John McCarthy had appeared in one MLS game all season. After coming on for the injured Crépeau, he conceded the go-ahead goal to Philadelphia in extra time. There was not much reason to believe that the former Union goalkeeper would come up big in the penalty shootout that would decide the 2022 MLS champion. But destiny is a powerful thing.
1. LAFC Lift The Cup
When Vela was introduced as the first Designated Player in LAFC history on August 12, 2017, he said, “We want to be the best. That’s why I’m here.” He reiterated his hunger for an MLS championship many times over the next five years until it started to sound like a guarantee.
After Ilie Sánchez converted the final penalty kick that made Vela’s promise a reality, Vela, the last remaining member of LAFC’s 2018 roster, stood among his confetti-covered teammates in the stadium he first toured when it was just a patch of gravel and a dream, and lifted the 43-pound, sterling silver trophy above his head.
When asked at the ensuing press conference to describe his emotions, a beaming Vela said: “I want more.”
Los Angeles Football Club will kick off its title defense in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Whitecaps in Game 1 of a best-of-3 first-round series on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. PT at BMO Stadium. The game will be televised on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. Get Tickets