The moment remains both unforgettable and easily overlooked. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau’s game-saving, trophy-saving challenge to Philadelphia forward Cory Burke in the 110th minute of last year’s MLS Cup final preceded Gareth Bale’s thrilling equalizing header and the penalty shootout that sealed the deal on LAFC’s first MLS title, yet it ranks beneath those moments in most fans’ memories, even though Bale’s goal and the celebration that followed John McCarthy’s MVP performance as Crépeau’s replacement could not have happened without it.
Crépeau’s challenge also fractured his right leg, as every MLS fan knows. And Sunday night, following nine months of painful and painstaking rehabilitation, Crépeau played the game he loves again for the first time since his injury, starting in goal for LAFC’s second-team, LAFC2, in a 2-1 victory over MLS Next Pro opponent Tacoma Defiance.
“It’s been a hell of a road,” Crépeau said afterward. “Personally I was happy just to play again. To play, to enjoy it, to have fun. That was a big part that I’ve missed. Playing.”
It was not an easy matchday. First-place Tacoma came in riding a 7-game unbeaten streak, and the LAFC2 players who started in front of the 29-year-old Crépeau consisted of seven teenagers and three 20-year-olds— skilled prospects with bright futures, but not yet at the level of the Black & Gold stars who took the field with Crépeau in November 2022 for that fateful final.
After LAFC2’s Matheus Maia scored the opener in the 11th minute, Tacoma (the Seattle Sounders’ second-division squad) equalized when a chance caromed off the gloves of the diving Crépeauand into the path of Chris Aquino, whose tap-in made it 1-1.
Crépeau spent most of the evening shouting what he called “guidance” to his less-experienced teammates. They responded by limiting Tacoma to just five total shots, and two on target. LAFC’s stingy defending was rewarded in the 57th minute when forward Tamir Ratoviz received a clever pass from first-teamer Erik Dueñas and finished it to provide the final 2-1 result.
Crépeau’s comeback, documented by his club and by the Los Angeles Times, had included a missed opportunity to play in last year’s World Cup. Crépeau had been selected to Canada’s roster for the game’s grandest competition, but his injury in the MLS Cup final cost him a trip to Qatar–in addition to the first 33 games of LAFC’s current season. All that seemed behind him, though, after Sunday’s final whistle, when a smiling Crépeau was congratulated by teammates a decade his junior.
“I’m tired but all good,” he said with a laugh. “I can train 5,000 hours during the week [but] it’s not the same as a game … I’m not in pain so life is good.”
Crépeau did not give specifics when asked when he might return to LAFC’s first team, calling Sunday’s match merely “part of the plan.” The club stands in second place in the Western Conference standings as it prepares to play its first Leagues Cup match on Aug. 2 at BMO Stadium.
Having finally cleared the physical and psychological hurdle of playing a competitive match, LAFC’s top goalie last season exuded confidence about what lies ahead. “That 90 minutes is gone,” Crépeau said. “I can do anything now.”