LOS ANGELES — Create numerous chances to score. Allow a paltry few. Lose the match.
This unpleasant formula has stifled Los Angeles Football Club teams when the Major League Soccer calendar moves into its critical end-of-season moments.
Sunday’s Decision Day contest against Nashville SC was a sufficient reminder that a hot opposing goalkeeper and mediocre finishing will always be a bad combination for the Black & Gold.
In its final regular season contest of the 2022 season, on a day that was intended to be a coronation after the club captured the Supporters’ Shield last weekend in Portland, LAFC fell 1-0 to Nashville SC.
Fourteen saves by Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis kept LAFC scoreless, ending a 41-match goal streak at Banc of California Stadium, which ranks as the second longest in league history.
Unlike his busy counterpart, LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau registered one save. He conceded in the 53rd minute when Canadian forward Teal Bunbury scored his fifth goal for the visitors — one of two shots that Nashville put on target.
The result prevented LAFC (21-9-4, 67 points) from hitting several milestones, including a season-best home record. The 2019 team, also Supporters’ Shield winners, retained that honor at 13-1-3.
Willis made seven saves in each half. He and his team also benefited from several poorly taken chances by LAFC, which finished with season highs in shots, 30, and shots on target, 14.
Carlos Vela missed a good opportunity in the opening quarter hour when he pulled a shot near the six-yard box wide of the goal. Vela played 40 minutes in a match that had no effect on LAFC final standings before being replaced by Cristian Tello. In 2022, the 33-year-old Mexican found the form that made him one of the top goal producers in MLS since his arrival in the league, finishing with 12 goals and 11 assists following 32 league appearances — his most in five seasons with the Black & Gold.
LAFC was awarded a penalty prior to halftime when Chicho Arango was taken down in the box. Seeking his 17th goal of the season, Arango tip-toed into a weak shot that Willis easily pushed aside.
Following the break Nashville, playing for an improved Western Conference playoff position, pressured LAFC.
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The second halves of matches became a point of pride for LAFC under head coach Steve Cherundolo, but Nashville (13-10-11, 50 points) took the initiative leading up to Bunbury’s goal. MLS MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar secured the Golden Boot award despite not getting on the board, closing the year with 23.
LAFC could get another look at fifth-seeded Nashville when its turn in the playoffs commences with a Conference Semifinal match. That will require the team from Tennessee defeating the L.A. Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park in the opening round.