Kellyn Acosta celebrates his goal. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

LOS ANGELES – You could not have scripted a better Hollywood ending.

Back-up goalkeeper John McCarthy, who had all of 90 minutes of league action under his belt this season, was forced into the MLS Cup final in extratime due to an injury and red card to regular keeper Maxime Crepeau.

McCarthy then rose to the occasion and then some in the penalty-kick shootout, making two saves to give the Los Angeles Football Club its first MLS championship. LAFC defeated the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, in the tie-breaker.

It was a dramatic and entertaining finish after the teams battled to a 3-3 deadlock after more than 120 minutes of nail-biting action in an epic encounter and one of the greatest finals in  the 27-year history of the competition, at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams overcame one-goal deficits in a physical contest that was marked with a horrific collision in extratime.

In the 110th minute, Crepeau and crunched Philly’s Cory Burke, as the two went for the ball near the top of the penalty kick in the 110th minute. Crepeau slammed into and fouled Burke as both players fell to the ground. Crepeau, who reportedly suffered a broken bone in his foot, originally was yellow carded before he was slapped with a red card.

McCarthy replaced him in the 116th minute. Nine minutes of actual injury time was needed to compete the period.

That led to plenty of time for both teams to provide some late match heroics.

First, it was Philadelphia defender Jack Elliott scoring his second goal to lift the visitors to a 3-2 edge four minutes into second extratime added time.

Not to be denied, it was LAFC’s turn to pull off some dramatics as Gareth Bale, who had come on in the second half, scored eight minutes into stoppage off a Diego Palacios assist to knot things up at 3-3.

Then came the Crepeau incident that set up McCarthy as the unlikely hero. After Daniel Gazdag sent his attempt far into the stands, McCarthy denied Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner on Philly’s second and third tries.

Meanwhile, McCarthy’s teammates did their joh. After Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake saved Cristian Tello’s PK, Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead and Ilie Sanchez converted theirs to give the capacity crowd so much more to cheer about.

Given that this is HollywoodLand, there were celebrities aplenty at the match, including actors.

The list had LAFC part owner and Will Ferrell, Colin Hanks and Rob McElhenney, the latter from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Of course, soccer fans might known McElhenney better as co-owners along with actor Ryan Reynolds of Wrexham in the National League in England (Welcome to Wrexham TV show). Hanks and McElhenney brought out the Philip F. Anschutz Cup prior to kickoff.

In a hotly contested physical affair, it seemed that the game was interrupted by a players withering on the ground after getting fouled every five minutes.

Slowly, but surely LA started to stretch the Philly defense and backline. A couple of shots from the hosts should have resulted in a corner kick early on, but the assistant referee or referee Ismail Elfath did not call any.

A set piece, however, resulted in the first goal.

Jose Martinez, the Union’s take no prisoners midfielder, set up the first goal when he fouled Cristian Arango 25 yards out. Midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who is likely to be included on the U.S. men’s national team 26-man roster for the Qatar World Cup on Thursday, attempted the free kick.

Carlos Vela took a step toward the ball as though he was going to take the set piece before Acosta took the kick.

He reminded USA head coach Gregg Berhalter about the magic he can produce on set pieces, drilling a shot that went off the head of Philly midfielder and former Blau-Weiss Gottschee standout Jack McGlynn and into the right corner of the net past goalkeeper Andre Blake to boost LAFC into a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.

In his celebration, Acosta looked to the heavens and pointed upwards with both fingers before he was mobbed by teammates.

In the opening 45 minutes, LAFC managed to stave up the Union’s attacks, whether it was blocking corner kicks and shots headed the toward goal. The hosts also were helped by Philadelphia’s inability to put any ball anywhere near on target to test goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

The Union finally put a shot on the target in the 59th minute. Martinez fired that was blocked by an LAFC player. The ball came to Daniel Gazdag, who slotted home the rebound from the middle of the area to knot things up at 1-1.

Frantically trying to settle the affair in 90 minutes and not in stoppage time, the teams traded goals a minute apart in the dying minutes of regulation.

First, it was Jesús Murillo the ball into the back of the net for LAFC in the 84th minute for a 2-1 edge.

Only a minute later, defender Jack Elliott headed a Kai Wagner left-wing cross home from the middle of the box to equalize.

LAFC tried to make it a Hollywood ending in regutation, but Blake snared Sebastien Ibeagha’s close-range header off a free kick five minutes into stoppage time to force two periods of extratime.

Two minutes into the first extra period, Blake, a three-time MLS goalkeeper of the year, gave Philly supporters some agita when he miskicked the ball in the penalty area and it traveled backward toward the outside right side of the net. Fortunately for the Jamaican international, no harm was done as the ball went out of bounds before an LA player could do some serious damage.

In the final minute of the period, Blake was called on to deny Tello’s shot with a two-handed diving save to his right.