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LAFC and Philadelphia Union win Conference Finals to set up MLS Cup clash

LAFC will host the Philadelphia Union in the final of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday, November 5.

The showdown pits the top seed in the Western and Eastern Conferences against each other to take the top prize – an unusually rare occurrence in Major League Soccer.

LAFC will host the match by virtue of winning the Supporters’ Shield, finishing level on points and having a worse goal difference than the Union during the regular season but finishing higher in the standings by winning more games – the primary tiebreaker in MLS.

Here’s how each team booked their spot at MLS Cup:

It was the Western Conference Final that kicked off the action on Sunday, with LAFC hosting second seeds Austin FC.

While many predicted a close match between two high-scoring teams who topped the Western Conference, it turned out to be a simple Sunday afternoon stroll for LAFC.

The Black and Gold took the lead in the 29th minute through Colombian striker Cristian Arango after dominating the opening exchanges and ended the first half with 16 shots attempted to Austin’s one.

Austin came out of the traps a little quicker after the break and had a few periods of sustained pressure, but they were never able to truly test goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

Though LAFC’s second came via an unfortunate Maxi Urruti own goal, it was no less than they deserved, while even the most loyal Austin FC fan would admit they didn’t warrant an equalizer.

LAFC rubbed salt into the wound in the 81st minute as substitute forward Kwadwo Opoku fired low beyond Brad Stuver to make it 3-0. However, once again, LAFC were good value for the scoreline in a match where they generated 2.25 xG to just 0.35 from Austin.

For all their regular-season success and a run to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final, this is the first time LAFC have gone all the way to MLS Cup. Steve Cherundolo’s men will look to become the first Supporters’ Shield winners to lift MLS Cup since Toronto FC in 2017 and just the second in 11 seasons.

The Philadelphia Union had a tougher time of it in the Eastern Conference Final and had to come from behind against defending champions NYCFC to book their MLS Cup debut.

After a quiet, non-descript first half, it was the visitors who took the lead with Maxi Moralez putting the clinical finishing touch to an exquisite team move in the 57th minute.

A short period of NYCFC pressure followed, but the Union composed themselves well and soon began to find a foothold in the game. In fact, they only had to wait eight minutes for the equalizer, with Argentine striker Julian Carranza running behind an unaware NYCFC defense to finish off a quickly-taken Jakob Glesnes free-kick.

Still reeling, NYCFC took another punch just two minutes later as Carranza turned provider to head the ball to Daniel Gazdag, who was completely free at the far post to apply a simple finish.

NYCFC never quite recovered and it was no surprise to see them concede a third in the 76th minute, with Cory Burke beating a couple of defenders before getting the ball back via a fortunate deflection, only to blast a shot beyond goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

After falling short at this stage last year, the Union will now contest MLS Cup for the first time in their history.

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