No Bale, no problem! Winners & losers from LAFC's playoff win over Austin FC as Arango and Vela steal the show yet again

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LAFC Austin 2022
MLS' best regular season team is one step closer to achieving their ultimate goal

For all of their success on and off the field, MLS Cup has thus far eluded LAFC. They've made splashes, won trophies, created a culture that other clubs could only dream of.

But they haven't yet won the big one.

Well, they're now one step away as several of LAFC's stars stepped up in a big way to lift the club into its first MLS Cup final.

LAFC defeated upstarts Austin FC 3-0 at Banc of California Field on Sunday afternoon, solidifying their spot as one half of the MLS Cup final. That final will be played in their home stadium as the club will get a chance to seal its big moment in Los Angeles.

With Gareth Bale watching from the bench once again due to injury, Chicho Arango helped LAFC move one step closer to that moment on Sunday, scoring the opener in the first half. He was helped by Carlos Vela, who assisted the Colombian's finish before creating an own goal for LAFC's second.

By the time Kwadwo Opoku made it 3-0 in the 81st minute, reality had set in. LAFC took down yet another challenger in impressive fashion, making short work of an Austin FC team that had done their share of humbling throughout this year.

But this was LAFC's day and, next week, we'll find out if it's LAFC's year.

  1. WINNER: Chicho Arango

    WINNER: Chicho Arango

    To think, just a few months ago, LAFC was reportedly willing to trade the Colombian star.

    It seems crazy that they even entertained the thought because Arango is just so damn good.

    The striker scored yet again on Sunday, flicking a header from a Vela corner to open the scoring. The goal was his second of the playoffs after his last-gasp winner against the Galaxy last week and the 18th MLS goal of the season for LAFC's leading scorer.

    In the big moments, Arango continues to step up. Despite the presence of a superstar like Bale that always seemed destined to take his place, Arango continues to be undroppable.

    For years, LAFC have been trying to find the guy to take them over the top, the star to add to the equation that can take them from MLS Cup contender to MLS Cup winner.

    It's looking like that guy might just be Arango, LAFC's playoff superstar so far.

  2. LOSER: Sebastian Driussi

    LOSER: Sebastian Driussi

    Sebastian Driussi is the face of a franchise, an MVP candidate, a legitimate star in MLS that can do everything a team wants and more.

    But on this day, in this game, he was completely starved.

    In the first half, the Argentine was limited to just 16 touches, the fewest of any half he's played in so far. Driussi was essentially invisible.

    That's not totally his fault. LAFC absolutely strangled Austin FC. They outshot them, out possessed them and outplayed them. Driussi was never allowed to get into the game because LAFC never let it happen.

    And so one of this year's best performers' season ended with a whimper. He scored 22 goals and provided seven assists during the regular season before adding three more in the club's first two playoff games. At his best, Driussi was unstoppable and one of the most fun players to watch in MLS.

    What a season it was for Driussi in Austin as both the player and club showed that they belong in the upper echelon of MLS, even if it didn't look like it in this one-off game. It was a tough day at the office for a player that probably deserved a better ending to it all.

  3. WINNER: Carlos Vela

    WINNER: Carlos Vela

    He may not be as dominant as he was during his first few seasons in MLS, but Vela still has the goods.

    The Mexican star created both goals on the day from set pieces, with his first finding the head of Arango to open the scoring.

    The second was a bit more fortunate. Vela's corner kick deflected off the head of Austin FC's Maxi Urruti, a lucky bounce for sure but they do say that you make your own luck.

    And that's what Vela does: he makes things happen. He's done it in MLS for years. He's broken records, scored big goals, won big games. Now, he's one step closer to the trophy that has so far eluded him and this club.

    Vela's numbers don't jump out at you like they once did, as LAFC's roster has filled out with stars all around him. But the Mexican winger is still so key to everything LAFC does.

    The club's first superstar, its captain, is now one game away from winning the big one.

  4. LOSER: Maxi Urruti

    LOSER: Maxi Urruti

    How unlucky can you get?

    Urruti was tossed into the game in the 61st minute, with Josh Wolff looking to change the game by subbing in an experienced striker that can get goals. One minute later, Urruti was pulling the ball out of the goal after heading it home.

    Unfortunately for him, though, it was the wrong net.

    Urruti was helpless on Vela's corner as he deflected it back into his own net. It, ultimately, felt like the moment the game ended, when Austin FC's chances of yet another comeback dwindled away.

    There are two types of own goals: the mistakes and the unfortunate. This was certainly more the latter, but regardless, it was deadly for Austin's MLS Cup hopes.



    The MLS Cup final is headed to Hollywood, and what great news that must be to those in the league office.

    No disrespect to Austin FC, who have built something special this season and will continue to do so. What that club has accomplished in just two seasons is incredible as soccer in Texas will continue to rise with them involved.

    But this is Los Angeles we're talking about, Hollywood, the City of Angels. And it will also be the city of the MLS Cup final.

    The marquee names will be there. Vela, Chiellini, Bale. And the atmosphere will be incredible, with LAFC's 3252 almost certain to go absolutely buckwild all week for their first MLS Cup. It will certainly be a spectacle worthy of the city the match will be held in.

    MLS went back to LA for a reason after the failure that was Chivas USA. They knew that the city was ready for a second team, for a rival that could go toe-to-toe with the Galaxy on and off the field.

    LAFC have accomplished that and more, and now they'll have a chance to truly solidify their place in La-La-Land.

    It's a script even Hollywood should be excited about.