LOS ANGELES, Oct 31 (AP): Thanks to Cristian ‘Chicho’ Arango, Los Angeles Football Club is headed to the MLS Cup final for the first time.
Arango scored the go-ahead goal for the second straight game on Sunday in LAFC’s 3-0 victory over Austin FC in the Western Conference final.
LAFC — which won the Supporters Shield as the top team in the regular season — will host Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia in the league title match on Saturday afternoon. The Union beat NYCFC 3-1 on Sunday night.
LAFC has won 11 of its last 12 matches (including the postseason) at home.
It is the first time since Toronto in 2017 that the Supporters Shield winner has reached the MLS championship game.
“Our guys did an emphatic job,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “That was the best I have seen implementing our match play from the beginning to the end. I’m very proud of the guys, but what I experienced in the locker room was hunger and a want for more.”
Arango headed in a crossing pass from Carlos Vela on a corner kick 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 of last season. He is an MVP finalist after scoring 30 regular-season goals.
“It was fundamental that our team come out with compact pressure. We were all assertive. That was so we could go into the half with the lead,” Arango said through an interpreter.
In the second half, Maximiliano Urruti scored an own goal and substitute Kwadwo Opoku added a score in the late stages.
After Urruti’s own goal in the 62nd minute, Opoku took advantage of a turnover and put a left-footed shot past Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver.
“A lot of credit goes to LAFC, they made it difficult for us,” Austin coach Josh Wolff said. “They’ve been the best team the entire year and this was another example of that. They didn’t give us a chance to breathe or build up.”
LAFC had a 22-7 advantage in shots, including 16-1 in the first half. LAFC also had a 10-1 edge in shots on goal.
Stuver made seven saves for Austin. Maxime Crépeau stopped one shot for his 10th shutout this season.
Austin FC finished in second place in its second season in MLS and had a 16-10-8 record during the regular season.
“There is so much pride with what we’ve been able to build in two years. We’re going to need to keep building on that next year,” Wolff said.