Nashville SC

Nashville SC playoff preview 2022: at Los Angeles Galaxy

For the third time this season, Nashville SC will face LA Galaxy. Can the Boys in Gold come away with their first win in the series?

The essentials

Opponent: Los Angeles Galaxy (14-12-8)
Time, Location: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2:08 p.m. CDT • Carson, Calif.
Weather: 71ºF, 36% chance of rain, 66% humidity, 7 mph WSW wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: Univision/TUDN (broadcast)/Twitter (streaming, more like screaming. because it’s ocober) • IHeartRadio/El Jefe 96.7 (Español)
Watch Party: At GEODIS Park, or ML Rose 8th South.

Referee: Armando Villareal Assistants: Kathryn Nesbitt, Chris Elliott Fourth Official: Ismir Pekmic Video Assistants: Edvin Jurisevic, Mike Kampmeinert

Vegas Odds: Nashville SC +294, Draw +275, LA Galaxy -116

StatNashville SCLA Galaxy
Record (W-L-D)13-10-11 (1.50 PPG)
5th West
14-12-8 (1.47 PPG)
4th West
Recent form (most recent first)W-L-D-D-WW-D-W-W-L
GF/Game1.531.71
GA/Game1.211.50
xG Power+0.38 (6th MLS)+0.26 (8th MLS)
G Power+0.22 (6th MLS)+0.15 (9th MLS)
“Luck”-0.16 (20th MLS)-0.10 (16th MLS)
Offense+0.23 (7th MLS)+0.30 (6th MLS)
Defense-0.15 (8th MLS)+0.04 (17th MLS)
Venue advantage+0.76 Away (2nd MLS)-0.28 Home (22nd MLS)
Injury reportAin’t nobodyOUT: M Jonathan Perez (knee), D Jorge Villafaña (knee, season)

Los Angeles Galaxy

Not much has changed in the past month, not least of which because an international break means Nashville has played just three games since drawing the Galaxy in GEODIS Park, while the Galaxy had to make up some contests and has played five. It’s worth noting that those five games largely went well for LA, finding form at just the right time.

From last time around:

The star of the show is Chicharito, of course, the former Mexico International whose absence from El Trí has only served to to somehow make him even more popular (also if Tata Martino were a better-than-replacement coach, The Little Pea would be playing with the national team anyway). He scored in the Galaxy’s return from the Covid break in 2021 – his third game in LA – and then… just once the rest of the season as LA missed the playoffs. Change in coaches (enter Greg Vanney), change in volume of offseason Instagram training sessions, and he came out last year boots blazing: five goals in his first two games as he led the Galaxy to a pair of impressive wins and 10 goals through the first 10 games of the year and a 7-3-0 record. He missed nearly three months with a calf injury, and the Galacticos didn’t win seven more games ALL YEAR. So as Chicharito goes, the team goes.

Sept. 10

Dejan Joveljic scored against Houston last week, and that could give him a bit of confidence after a long injury layoff and then a handful of games in which he made effectively no impact on the attack. He’s a star-potential player (if healthy, might be recognized as a star already), though the way he fits into a lineup with Chicharito and the more-natural wingers already out there… is up for debate. He’s largely forced the Galaxy into a different shape when he’s subbed onto the field (and he has just one start since his injury return).

It’s been a theme all year:

Wingers Kevin Cabral and Efraín Alvarez and central midfielder Rayan Raveloson are the other xG producers on the team so far, though only Alvarez has scored – and just a single goal, compared to five goals on 3.53 xG for The Little Pea. Interestingly, the two leading xA players are wingers, but different wingers – DP Douglas Costa and Samuel Grandsir. Part of that is because of LA’s flexibility between a two-striker-ish take on the 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 principles: Alvarez or Vázquez typically playing off Chicharito, whose best skill for years has been laying off to another attacker and then perfectly timing and angling his run to get the return pass in space in the box.

April 23

Cabral remains basically a meme because of how poor his finishing has been this year. Is he a rare player with statistically-significant finishing skill (or lack thereof)? Or is his consistent production in expected terms going to eventually level off a bit? It’s obviously unknowable… but in two-striker formations, I’d rather roll with Joveljic.

Riqui Puig continues to draw the headlines for the Galaxy, and after a handful of games that featured one pretty pass and a bunch of ‘meh’ play otherwise, he’s started to round into form. In under a thousand minutes, he has three goals and two assists, just about hitting the expected numbers in both regards. He’s also second on the team in G+, despite the low amount of time on the field. His passing breakout is an incredible +0.90 (only a handful of players have matched or exceeded it without playing twice as many minutes), he’s a very good dribbler (+0.61) and the rest is sort of… there. Interestingly, that’s the profile of a classic No. 10, but Galaxy is playing him as one of the advanced midfielders in a 4-3-3 or one of the shuttlers in a 4-4-2 – effectively the same role from his perspective, just a matter of how the attacking three aligns in front.

Marco “you’re still gonna accidentally call me ‘Marky’ all the time” Delgado has been the partner in the advanced portion of midfield, while Uruguayan Gaston Brugman is the holder. Like Puig, he’s more known for his passing than his defensive acumen at the position.

The backline has been completely different from previously –

…a backline of, from left to right, Kelvin Leerdam, Nick DePuy (Derrick Williams replacing him due to injury in the past couple games), Sega Coulibaly, and Julián Araujo (like Alvarez, a former US Youth International who has pledged his future to El Trí).

April 23

Leerdam has been planted to the bench in favor of Raheem Edwards, not seeing the field even when Edwards was unavailable (Chase Gasper entered instead). Araujo’s statistical profile is disturbingly similar to what it was like earlier in the season (odd, given that hadn’t been his career to date).

Sept. 10

…with Edwards and Williams now permanent fixtures, but Martín Cáceres, a summer-window signing, now Williams’s partner at CB. His 475 minutes haven’t really been enough to determine a statistical profile. It is worth noting that the Galaxy’s opponent-adjusted xG Against has been basically awful since the contest in Nashville, with only the season finale against Houston the exception (thanks, Dynamo).

And in net, the Galaxy still hasn’t seen a second from anyone other than Jonathan Bond. His numbers had collapsed over the course of the year…

Bond’s still played every minute for the Galaxy, but his form has devolved: he’s now allowing 122% of xG faced to be converted.

Sept. 10

He’s been better than that in the past six games, but still below MS average, allowing 108% in those games to get his season-long number to 120%.

The Boys in Gold

Got no time. You know this team.

Projected lineups

Keys to the game

  • Set pieces. Obvs
  • Force Puig to defend in space. Greg Vanney has run with a very narrow formation in recent weeks – whether a 4-diamond-2 or a tight 4-3-3 – and that puts Puig in wide defensive areas more than he’s comfortable. Unless we see a reversion to a 4-4-2 to protect him and Brugman, there should be opportunities to run the guy ragged.
  • Body in the defensive third. This is a Galaxy team that has a good amount of skill, but honestly the most-talented players either lack xDawg or are Chicharito, whose xDawg is very high but who is best-controlled by not letting him out of physical contact with you (or he’ll ghost you from your blindspot). Keeping those incisive passes from finding open guys in the box is important.
  • Control central lanes. Puig has not been good defensively, and he’s actually been so-so attacking-wise, despite the headlines. The one thing he truly can do is tear you open through the middle if there’s a channel. So don’t let there be one.
  • Put the ball on Bond. He’s not good, so might as well make him earn it. He has the potential to do that, of course (look no further than Joe Willis’s incredible match against LAFC last week in an otherwise-down year for him), but you might as well assume he’s a weak point.

Prediction

Nashville SC 2, LA Galaxy 2 (Nashville advances on penalties)

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