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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: John McCarthy

Truly the surprise hero of LAFC’s season.

MLS: MLS Cup Championship-Philadelphia Union vs Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Goalkeeper has been a revolving door for LAFC in their short history, players thrust into the spotlight, some swimming for a while, some sinking, and no real stability at the position the last few years. And then, stability in 2022, but no trademark legendary performances...until MLS Cup.

It turned out, the legendary goalkeeping performance was a two-man job, and it was capped off by LAFC backup GK John McCarthy’s exploits. The journeyman, mostly a backup in his MLS career, played very few minutes in 2022, including at MLS Cup, but what he did was absolutely career-defining.

All told, McCarthy made four appearances for the black-and-gold this year, three competitive games plus the Leagues Cup Showcase friendly against Club América — more on that in a minute — and one appearance in each competition. Maxime Crepeau was firmly LAFC’s No. 1 in 2022, McCarthy was the clear No. 2, but most of what we saw from the backup was his banter, perhaps a budding bromance with Giorgio Chiellini. A representative example: Trying to hand Chiellini his GK gloves after the Italian made a hilarious handball shortly before coming off the field.

Here are McCarthy’s competitive stats with LAFC in 2022:

John McCarthy LAFC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win% Save% Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win% Save% Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 1 1 90 4 2 2 0 0 67 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 1 1 90 3 1 1 0 100 75 0 0
Playoffs 1 0 3 1 1 1 0 0 50 0 0
Total 3 2 183 8 4 1.33 0 33 67 0 0

Let’s go through each of McCarthy’s appearances. First, McCarthy made his LAFC debut in the club’s first U.S. Open Cup match, the 5-1 romp at home over Orange County SC. It wasn’t a shutout, but it was a dominant win against a lower-division side, and you’ll take that any day.

Next, there was the road game in regular season play against the Colorado Rapids, where a heavily-rotated LAFC side in the middle of fixture congestion with U.S. Open Cup play happening included McCarthy getting his first league minutes for LAFC. It was a loss, the rotations were too much and it was not a good day at the office. McCarthy didn’t look out of place, but the kind of game for the whole team to turn the page quickly and look to the next one.

Following that, the Leagues Cup game against América at SoFi Stadium. The game ended 0-0 in regulation, so business was taken care of, but then there was a penalty shootout after 90 minutes. LAFC lost the shootout, but this was the only shootout the black-and-gold participated in until the MLS Cup Final. Obviously goalkeepers practice penalty scenarios all the time, but I do think LAFC having that PK shootout in the Leagues Cup friendly was a good dry run for everyone — for the outfield players, having a scenario where a shootout is present but ultimately inconsequential, even if it’s in front of a huge crowd, while for McCarthy, it’s the best practice possible, a game scenario in front of a crowd. I don’t think LAFC wouldn’t have been able to convert in the MLS Cup Final without this experience, but it may have given them that last 1 percent needed to push themselves to victory.

Which leads us to McCarthy’s final appearance of the year, and by far the biggest. The second half of extra time of MLS Cup, Crepeau has just broken his leg and drawn a red card in a 2-2 game, it genuinely feels like either LAFC or the Philadelphia Union can win it, and up steps McCarthy, playing against his hometown team, the team with which he started his MLS career and spent so many seasons, in the most pressure-packed moment possible.

McCarthy officially entered the game in the 117th minute, which makes it hilarious that he gets credited with just three minutes of action. In those “three minutes,” he allowed a goal to give Philly the 3-2 lead, probably prayed his way to Gareth Bale’s 128th-minute equalizer like everybody else, then had to step up in the penalty shootout, and did, making two saves and seeing the third kick sail over the mark to blank the Union and land the MLS Cup for LAFC.

It was a team effort to win the MLS Cup, of course, and we all know McCarthy literally did far more than the box score stat of “3 minutes played, 1 goal allowed,” but McCarthy was the MLS Cup Final MVP, and it was touching to see how his emotions truly ran the gamut postgame.

From there, he partied hard, like you would expect a backup goalkeeper to do, and he truly was the life of the party for LAFC in the post-Cup celebrations. He also admitted he wished he hadn’t had to beat the Union, a team he still has a lot of love for, and I find that to be incredibly endearing. He’s not a machine, he’s a man, and he got the deserved personal glory but also felt a truly bittersweet emotion for having to down the team he spent so much time with to do it.

McCarthy is under contract for 2023 and I expect if he hadn’t already had been, he certainly would have earned a return with LAFC. But as it stands, he’s back next season, and he can expect to play more minutes — Crepeau is expected to miss the opening weeks, possibly months, of the 2023 season, and it looks likely McCarthy will be the No. 1 to open the campaign. From there? Well, if he’s lights out, I suppose anything can happen, right? That’s what we learned from McCarthy’s exploits to win MLS Cup, after all.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.