As the second half of MLS Cup progressed, it looked like Gareth Bale wouldn’t play a part in the biggest match in Los Angeles FC’s five-year history.

Bale was brought in over the summer after his contract with Real Madrid expired, and he arrived with every intention to play enough minutes to prepare for the upcoming World Cup after making just a handful of appearances last season for his previous club. He worked with the club’s staff to build a load management plan that would simultaneously benefit the Welshman and the Western Conference leaders. However, he followed infrequent availability during the regular season with a knock that kept him from participating as LAFC began its quest to win a first postseason title.

By the week of MLS Cup, Bale and the staff agreed he could play 25 to 30 minutes — if LAFC needed a goal, that is.

“I knew if the game was close, then yeah, I’m obviously a good player to call upon,” Bale said with a self-aware smirk after the match, and who can blame him?

To chronicle Bale is to document more goals in big moments than many clubs experience in a century. There was his levitation act in the 2014 Champions League final against Atlético Madrid and his lung-busting run in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona the same year, then a pair — including an overhead stunner — against Liverpool in 2018. There have been a slew of vital goals for Wales as they made Euro 2016 and the 32-team field for Qatar, and Tottenham fans have a whole catalog from which to choose their favorite.

LAFC signed Bale with every hope that he had an iconic goal or two left to contribute. Unfortunately, he entered Saturday with just 347 minutes played to show for his $2.39 million salary.

As fate would have it, he needed just 23 more to make clear that he was, in fact, priceless.

“You see there’s so many players that are dropping out, and now they are missing the World Cup,” Bale said of his infrequent availability. “It’s been difficult mentally, and I’m sure it has been for a lot of players going into the World Cup. For sure it’s been in the back of my mind, trying to make sure I’m 100 percent fit. Today, obviously, I felt good enough to come on the pitch and help the team.”