Star-studded LAFC face battle with Philadelphia to lift MLS Cup

Star-studded LAFC face battle with Philadelphia to lift MLS Cup

LOS ANGELES : Star-studded LAFC welcome the rugged Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup Final on Saturday with both teams gunning for their first championship in what could be one of the most competitive finals in league history.

With LAFC boasting a glitzy roster featuring Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale, celebrity owners and an elegant downtown stadium, the Western Conference champions are poised to deliver on the high expectations that came with their launch in 2018.

Former league MVP Vela, who has been with the franchise since its inception, said he was relishing the opportunity to deliver for the team’s passionate fans after the club won their second Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record.

“I’ve said it from the first day, this club is special,” Vela said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. “I work every single day to make it so and this is a really good chance for us, for myself, to give something back to the fans and everyone involved in this club.”

Standing in the way of LAFC’s Hollywood ending is offensive powerhouse Philadelphia, who led the league with 72 goals despite lacking LA’s star power.

“We might not have those marquee names like LAFC does but one thing we do have is guys who understand their roles and who play for one another,” said veteran Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. “We’re prepared to do that again on Saturday.”

Despite the high-powered forwards, the game will likely be decided by the defenders.

Philadelphia can rely on MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake, while LAFC played suffocating defence to shut out Austin 3-0 and make the final.

Injury issues also loom large on both sides.

LAFC’s Bale has yet to feature in the playoffs due to a wrist injury and it is unclear if he will play in the final.

Philadelphia’s captain and talisman Bedoya re-aggravated a groin injury in the conference final against New York City FC and his fitness for the final is also unclear.

LAFC and the Union were the top seeds in their respective conferences. They have met four times before with LAFC winning the first clash and the other three ending in draws.

Neither club has played in the Cup final, meaning MLS will crown a new champion for the sixth straight season on Saturday after NYCFC won the title last year.

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