It was one of the most memorable scenes of the most memorable MLS Cup to date.
Maxime Crépeau was on his back, carted off the field after breaking his leg on a DOGSO red-card challenge vs. the Philadelphia Union. LAFC's goalkeeper missed the chance to celebrate their MLS Cup 2022 breakthrough at BMO Stadium and, ultimately, the opportunity to compete in the World Cup with Canada.
Yet on Sunday night at Lumen Field, Crépeau put his team on his back, making several sensational saves to secure a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC. That result booked LAFC’s place in the Western Conference Final, where they’ll host Houston Dynamo FC next Saturday, Dec. 2 (9:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). The winner will visit either FC Cincinnati or Columbus Crew in MLS Cup on Dec. 9.
“It was a hell of a ride in the past 12 months or so,” Crépeau said on MLS Season Pass afterward.
“Honestly I’m enjoying the football again and that’s the part I missed so much, is just enjoying my game. That’s how I can express myself tonight.”
Crépeau made seven stops in a brilliant performance that ended Seattle's 19-game home playoff unbeaten streak, including coming off his line to get a hand on Jordan Morris' 4th-minute shot.
“When he made that save, in my head I was like ‘It’s over, we just won the game,’” LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead said. “That sort of momentum shift when they’ve got a clear chance like that, a goal-scorer like Jordan, I mean this guy’s been one of the best goal-scorers in our league for almost a decade now. This guy’s been scoring goals for so long. He doesn’t miss a ton of those; that’s a testament to Max just standing him up, making a decision.”
With the Sounders desperately pushing for a late equalizer, Crépeau got his fingertips on a rising effort from distance by João Paulo in the 81st minute for another impressive denial.
“The one-v-one with Jordan Morris was an excellent save, not every 'keeper makes that save,” head coach Steve Cherundolo said. “I think the deflected shot from distance toward the end of the game … that’s not a save that’s expected.”
“Those two saves were big,” he added. “Kept us in the game early and closed it out for us late.”
Crépeau's heroics ensured Dénis Bouanga’s 30th-minute goal stood as the winner for the defending MLS Cup champions. It was his 37th goal of the season in all competitions, but the Gabon international said LAFC wouldn’t have been able to advance without Crépeau.
“Max came back really strong; he really wanted to come back and help us. We had low moments, but Max was here today, he has a big mentality and it helps a lot,” Bouanga said through a translator. “Max is a really great player and tonight he was amazing.”
Now Crépeau and LAFC are 90 minutes away from a return to MLS Cup, the site of his greatest triumph and tragedy.
“This is the target, this is the goal,” Crépeau said. “We have Houston next week and then there’s two small 90 minutes, we have to take it one 45 at a time obviously. But we have to go again and we’re happy to go back home as well.”