A familiar mantra around these parts is “all it takes is one.” It actually took two for the Galaxy – they had a Chicharito goal wiped out by a foul in buildup after VAR review – but the hosts did enough to knock off Nashville SC in the first round of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Right back Julian Araujo nodded home a cross from winger Samuel Grandsir in the 60th – just nine minutes after the wiped-out goal – and LA Galaxy was able to defend [whatever the title sponsor of their stadium is nowadays] Center in Southern California. It was a fairly even match both before and after the goal, but the Galaxy got the one that counted. LAG finished with a 1.2-0.8 expected goals advantage with Nashville SC taking nine shots to their five – but a 0.60 score for Araujo’s header (boosted by Opta’s semi-embarrassing “is goal” flag) accounted for half the total.
In the absence of head coach Gary Smith – back home in Nashville due to illness – lead assistant Steve Guppy’s plan was to sit back and let the Galaxy possess the ball without accomplishing much. Aside from a breakaway for Chicharito’s ruled-out goal, the back-five worked to design. But once the Galaxy managed to go ahead, Nashville simply lacked the attacking punch to find an equalizer.
Winger Jacob Shaffelburg had perhaps the best late-game chance, splitting to defenders to charge into the penalty area. His left-footed shot couldn’t stay true to catch the top corner, and there wasn’t enough bend on the ball to remain ini play for a teammate to recycle it.
For the first time in three MLS seasons, Nashville fails to win at least one MLS Cup playoff game, and the Boys in Gold will certainly rue their 2-1 defeat on the penultimate day of the regular season. By dropping a contest to Houston Dynamo – one of the worst teams in all of MLS – Nashville lost the opportunity to host a playoff game at GEODIS Park. The club remains undefeated in home playoff games, and winless on the road.
With an aging roster but some bright young pieces, this should be an offseason of change for Nashville, with an eye toward a run for the Cup in 2023.
- 20′ NSH Yellow card – 25 Walker Zimmerman (foul)
- 45’+1 Full time
- 58′ NSH Yellow card – 27 Brian Anunga (foul)
- 60′ LA GOAL – 2 Julian Araujo (headed), assisted by 11 Samuel Grandsir (cross) and 10 Douglas Costa (throughball to endline for Grandsir)
- 64′ LA Yellow card – 2 Julian Araujo (foul)
- 64′ NSH substitution – On 6 Dax McCarty, off 27 Brian Anunga
- 69′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 14 Jacob Shaffelburg, off 5 Jack Maher
- On 17 CJ Sapong, off 12 Teal Bunbury
- 73′ LA Substitutions –
- On 9 Kevin Cabral, off 10 Douglas Costa
- On 26 Efraín Alvarez, off 11 Samuel Grandsir
- 79′ LA Yellow card – 5 Gaston Brugman
- 82′ LA Substitution – On 3 Derrick Williams, off 8 Marco Delgado
- 82′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 20 Aníbal Godoy, off 54 Sean Davis
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 8 Randall Leal
- 88′ LA Substitution – On 99 Dejan Joveljić, off 14 Chicharito
- 90’+6 Full time