Gareth Bale's short time with LAFC was the perfect & most predictable ending to career

Chris Smith
Bale scored the most iconic and important goal in LAFC history so far.
Bale scored the most iconic and important goal in LAFC history so far. / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

Gareth Bale was only with Los Angeles FC for a very short period but, if anything, his time there told the story of his entire career in one concentrated shot.

The iconic Welsh forward arrived at Banc of California Stadium back in June following a glittering yet controversial career in Europe, full of Champions League titles, huge goals, injuries, and golf.

The plan was for Bale to offer that extra quality and experience needed for LAFC to finally get over the line and become MLS Cup champions. For the player himself, it was a chance to escape the intense scrutiny of Real Madrid, while continuing to be the centerpiece and stay fit for the World Cup.

"The best prep is to play games. I want to come here. I want to play games and make my stamp and do as best I can to try and help LAFC win a trophy," Bale said upon his arrival.

"And I can help with the youngsters because it's a very young team here, give them advice, seeing what I do in terms of professional standard and try to help them.

"The league is a growing league. It was an exciting opportunity I felt was right for me and my family. It's very new but it's something that's really glamorous. It's just a very attractive club."

The early signs certainly looked good.

After some fancy flicks and tricks in a cameo debut against Nashville SC in July, Bale opened his LAFC account with a wonderful goal in a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in his second appearance. Two games later, and Bale was on the scoresheet again with another solo effort as the Black and Gold thrashed Real Salt Lake 4-1 away from home.

But then the injuries set in. Through the regular season, Bale started just two of his 13 appearances and didn't manage another goal. In fact, he didn't even come close, often looking painfully short of fitness and only hovering on the fringes of games.

It appeared that the signing of Bale would go down as an expensive publicity stunt for LAFC, who motored all the way through the Playoffs and into MLS Cup without the Welshman even making it onto the field. He wasn't even on the bench for their Western Conference Round One clash with arch-rivals the LA Galaxy.

But this is Gareth Bale. The man built for finals. One of the few players the game has ever seen who can be having the season from hell and be totally at odds with a club's supporters, and yet be the first name they'd call upon when the going gets tough.

The going was certainly tough for LAFC when Bale entered the field in the seventh minute of extra time. The Supporters' Shield winners had been matched blow for blow by the Philadelphia Union in a 2-2 draw across normal time. To make matters worse, center-back Jack Elliott headed the Eastern Conference side ahead in the 124th minute with the latest goal in MLS Cup history, with LAFC down to 10 men.

But the Union didn't have Bale. From the moment he arrived at LAFC, it felt like fate for the Welshman to have the deciding say in the biggest match in US soccer. Just four minutes after Elliott had seemingly won the match, Bale pulled yet another piece of magic from his hat, out-jumping the 6ft5 center-back at the other end and heading home a goal that sent the final into extra-time and the Banc of America Stadium terraces into complete pandemonium.

Bale didn't take a penalty in the shootout. Chances are he probably didn't have the strength left but thankfully, he didn't have to as the Union missed all three of their attempts to hand LAFC a 3-0 win and the trophy. But you can bet even his mere presence and sense of destiny were enough to put the opposition off.

"He's a guy with big qualities and a guy who makes big plays," LAFC boss Steve Cherundolo said afterward, adding: "When he's feeling well and healthy, he makes a difference in games. That's why we bring him in in those moments. I wish he was 24."

Unfortunately, Bale was always fighting a losing battle against time. Following Wales' exit from the World Cup in Qatar, rumors of the player's retirement started to flow. LAFC will be desperately disappointed not to have him around for another season, but he more than made his mark.

In true Bale style, he frustrated the LAFC supporters with his injuries and delivered the most important goal in club history, all in the space of five-and-a-half months.