Gareth Bale on game-saving equalizer: “That’s what I’m here to do”

LOS ANGELES – When Los Angeles FC fans heard that Gareth Bale, a five-time UEFA Champions League winner, was joining their club this year, they probably expected a bit more than his two-goal, 12-appearance debut season. Let’s be frank, he is a globally respected player and can handle some criticism even when it’s unfair. But ... Read more

Gareth Bale on game-saving equalizer: “That’s what I’m here to do”

LOS ANGELES – When Los Angeles FC fans heard that Gareth Bale, a five-time UEFA Champions League winner, was joining their club this year, they probably expected a bit more than his two-goal, 12-appearance debut season.

Let’s be frank, he is a globally respected player and can handle some criticism even when it’s unfair. But it is important to give credit when it’s deserved. Especially if you’re one of those who took cheap shots at the Welshman in recent weeks.

No, he didn’t exactly light the league on fire and has drawn some remarks about what value he actually presents to LAFC, a club that proved to be the strongest team in the United States, largely without his services.

But he was crucial to etching LAFC’s name in history as the 2022 MLS Cup champion, which is exactly what he was brought there to do. In the 11th hour, the Philadelphia Union had a one-goal lead and man advantage in the dying embers of added time and looked to be firming their grip on playing spoiler.

But Bale, who has an uncanny pattern of scoring big goals, struck in a way that was fitting only in Tinseltown.

“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,”

“Like I said, 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,”

LAFC fumbled an early lead. Had they held on, Bale probably wasn’t even going to appear. The situation officially got dire enough extra time in for head coach Steve Cherundolo to unleash his newest weapon.

“I was warming up for 40 minutes trying to make myself ready to come on. I knew if the game was close, then yeah. I’m obviously in a good place to call upon,” Bale said. “Obviously, we took the lead, and I was like, ‘right, I’m not coming on,’ and then we conceded, and then yeah, the time came for me to come on and try and help the team.”

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The short shift was Bale’s foray into MLS playoff action, and the execution proved that he very likely could be the firebreather that many expect him to be for his new club.

“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. 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.”

The moment is exactly what he’s in Los Angeles to do, and saving the game off the bench, while not in full health, was a much-needed advertisement for the 33-year-old.

As an aside, the injury is real and under wraps. SBI was able to confirm it is a lingering leg issue, and neither Bale nor LAFC has given an official prognosis, but you’d be wrong if you thought his lighter workload is an attempt to preserve himself for being the focal point of Wales’ World Cup campaign later this month.

“I’m feeling better and better as time goes on,” said Bale. “Obviously, I’ve had a few setbacks. I had a slight knock a couple of weeks ago which kept me out for 10 days. I think it’s been difficult mentally now leading into the World Cup. You see there are so many players that are dropping out, and now they are missing the World Cup.

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Apart from the U.S men’s national team’s woes, Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, and several other top-tier players have been scrapped from their respective nations’ rosters in recent weeks. Yes, there is a reason to be cautious, but the hesitancy with Bale is a necessary precaution that’s amplified by his star power.

Bale’s contract with LAFC was a 12-month deal retrospective to June of this year. Becoming an MLS champion in a partial season is a rarity, but Bale obviously knows he has more to give and is poised to leave a more clear mark on the league looking ahead.

“It was a big goal coming here was to do that, and you can see how happy everybody is now, the fans, the city. It’s important for this club to go to the next level, and I think by winning this trophy, it shows that we are. It’s a club really on the rise doing the right things and it’s an important trophy for us, especially the first one, first major trophy, and hopefully there’s more to come in the future,”