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John McCarthy plays the hero, wins MLS Cup MVP for LAFC against his hometown team

An unfortunate series of events led to McCarthy facing his former team in the shootout that ended MLS Cup

Morgan Tencza

It had to be John McCarthy didn’t it?

No one could have predicted that a gruesome injury to Max Crepeau on a play where the goalkeeper was shown red for denying a clear goalscoring chance in the 116th minute would result in the Philadelphia native and former Andre Blake backup coming on to win MLS Cup MVP.

But once the La Salle grad put his gloves on the irony and magnitude of the situation felt a little too on the nose even for Union fans back home.

McCarthy spent four seasons playing for his hometown team in Chester but playing second fiddle to Blake led him to seek greener pastures in Inter Miami in their inaugural season and to LAFC after his option was declined last offseason.

McCarthy didn’t get any more opportunity to play in his first season in LA than he did back home, making just one start and two appearances during the regular season but he was able to do something in the shortest appearance of his career he wasn’t able to do in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup final: win a shootout with a trophy on the line.

The shootout against SKC was McCarthy’s third of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup campaign. He led the Union to shootout victories at home against the Rochester Rhinos and at Red Bull Arena against the Red Bulls.

So it wasn’t unprecedented or surprising when McCarthy made a pair of diving saves to stop penalty kicks from Jose Martinez and Kai Wagner after Daniel Gazdag slipped and missed the first kick for the Union. But like a West Chester native making a leaping catch in the 9th inning for the Houston Astros the other night, it didn’t lessen the blow any.

“That’s something that you never plan on, you never wish that on anyone,” McCarthy said in a post-game interview on the field about his entry into the game. “But when it happened - a couple minutes before we had some discussions about am I in for PKs or not - I was locked in, downing an energy drink and when that happened I clicked on, I was in the zone.”

Later, McCarthy, who was a volunteer coach with the La Salle women’s soccer team when he was with the Union, said he wished MLS Cup had been against another team.

McCarthy went on to reference his high school playing days at the since shuttered North Catholic High School. North Catholic won the Philadelphia Catholic League and District XII titles in 2008, McCarthy’s junior season. He stayed locally after high school to play at La Salle and made his way to MLS after winning USL goalkeeper of the year in his first season as a pro.

His journey to becoming MLS Cup MVP has been anything but predictable but you can’t say he didn’t make the most of the chance he was given, even though that chance broke the hearts of so many in his hometown.