Maxime Crépeau’s night against his former club, the Vancouver Whitecaps could not have been scripted any better as he held a clean sheet against them to make LAFC’s lone goal of the night from Golden Boot winner Denís Bouanga the winner and guaranteed their advancement into Western Conference semifinal.
Exactly one year ago, Crépeau suffered the biggest setback of his career when he broke his leg during the 2022 MLS Cup Final and was in the hospital watching as his teammates finished the hard-fought duel against Philadelphia Union to win the coveted final prize, the MLS Cup.
After many months of recovery, Max has been working towards the playoffs form with diligence and focus. Against Vancouver in the game 2 of the first round of the playoffs, Crepeau made five saves, his highest of the year during which he has kept 3 clean sheets in nine overall matches. And, he did so through a roar of boos and jeers from the overwhelmingly loud home crowd, an attendance breaking record for BP Place of over 30,000 roaring fans.
Afterwards head coach Steve Cherundolo chuffed, “If the fans here knew Max they wouldn’t have reacted that way to him. He loves that, feeds off that, and it makes him actually stronger and more focused and better.”
Bouanga scored his third goal of the playoffs, his seventh against Vancouver, 36th goal overall this year, and the only goal of the match in the 24th minute as he took the penalty kick after Mario González drew a foul on Whitecaps defender Tristan Blackmon. And, as usual in MLS play when scoring first, LAFC held off the onslaught of shots the Whitecaps had in their arsenal, to win.
Bouanga seemingly scored another goal in second-half stoppage time, but VAR determined he was offside. And in the heat of the moment, Vancouver’s coach Vanni Sartini received a red card for arguing before the review was completed. Crépeau made one final diving stop on a shot by Ryan Gauld in the final seconds of the match. LAFC won the 3-game series with a comfortable 2-match lead.
LAFC now have a three-week break before they face the winner of the Seattle Sounders – FC Dallas game series, but they are all focused on returning to the goal of winning the MLS Cup one match at a time. “My state of mind will be always the same,” Bouanga explained in the post-match review. “I’m not going to be inactive, I’m going to go to Gabon and try to win the two games for the World Cup qualifying and then come back with the same desire to win the conference semifinal.”