Gareth Bale (center) celebrates his game-tying goal. :(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
LOS ANGELES – Attention U.S. soccer fans:
You should know that Gareth Bale is far from being 100 percent.
After he scored the equalizing goal for the Los Angeles Football Club in the MLS Cup final as a late substitute, perhaps Americans should be scared and be very scared because Bale and Wales will take on the U.S. men’s national team in the World Cup on Nov. 21.
No doubt the Welsh star is a game-breaker and game-changer.
“I’m not 100 percent at the moment,” Bale said after LAFC captured the MLS Cup after winning the shootout and after playing to a 3-3 draw on Saturday. “I’m still coming back. I still have a few little issues like most players do.”
Still, Bale was able to perform his heroics and magic not at full speed.
Now, that’s scary.
Since joining the team during the summer, Bales has struggled with injuries. Entering Saturday’s match, Bales had played but 347 minutes, starting only two of 12 matches for LAFC.
“We spoke about if I’m needed for the last 20, 30 minutes, I’m available, because I haven’t trained too much over the last three or four weeks because I’ve had this little slight issue,” he said. “I was able to come on for the last 20, 30 minutes, and just give as much as I can. Glad I came up with a goal to help the team. Yeah, that’s what I’m here to do, I guess.”
As long as he doesn’t score against the USMNT in Qatar in a little more than three weeks.
“He’s a guy with big qualities and a guy who makes big plays,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “Let’s hope he doesn’t in the first game of the World Cup for all the Americans in the room.
“But it’s Gareth being Gareth. He does it in training. He’s done it this season. When he’s feeling well and healthy, he makes a difference in games. That’s why we bring him in in those moments. I wish he was 24.”
He’s actually 33 and he still finds ways to make an impact in the few short minutes Bales might play.
Bales has had a knack of winning trophies. He has secured 19 trophies since 2013, which included titles with Tottenham and Real Madrid.
Bale, one of Wales’ keys to its World Cup success, came on for LA captain Carlos Vela seven minutes into the first extratime period.
Man, talk about class replacing class.
Eight minutes into the second ET Bale showed his class by connecting for the equalizer at 3-3 to give LAFC a lifeline and a fighting chance to win its first MLS Cup championship.
“It’s nice. It’s always nice to score in finals, and I seem to have a knack for doing that,” he said. “It’s big. It’s important for the club. It’s important for the fans. … We were down to 10 men, I guess not really looking like we were going to get anything out of the game. Credit to everybody and to keep pushing and keep fighting, and like I said, it was nice to get the goal and to help the team. Where it ranks, I’m not too sure but it’s a great feeling.”