CARSON — All of the concerns that Galaxy coach Greg Vanney had about trying to break down the Nashville SC defense came to fruition on Saturday night.
Nashville, one of the stingiest teams in Major League Soccer, lived up to its reputation, frustrating the Galaxy for most of the match. That was until the 87th minute.
With the Galaxy dominating possession throughout the second half, the breakthrough came as Dejan Joveljic beat Joe Willis with a shot from the left wing to give the Galaxy (5-2-1, 16 points) a 1-0 lead and an eventual win in front of 26,674 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“It’s always a pleasure to play in front of these amazing fans,” Joveljic said. “I didn’t get a lot of minutes since we started (the season), five, 10 minutes. I’m very happy and satisfied. It’s not about me, it’s about us, we played a good game and we deserved to win.”
This is Joveljic’s second season with the Galaxy. Last season he joined the club in the summer and played in 14 games. Before tonight, he had made just six appearances.
“It’s hard, for sure,” Joveljic said of his lack of playing time. “I don’t want to say frustrated, but I’m not satisfied. I know at my position is the best striker in this league (Chicharito Hernandez) and that I’m going to have little minutes alongside him, but I need to wait for my chance and tonight I showed that I need to get more minutes, more than five.”
Sega Coulilbaly kept the play alive by getting it to Derrick Williams. Williams was surrounded by two Nashville defenders, but he managed to send it out toward Joveljic, who did the rest.
This was the first time the Galaxy had faced Nashville, which entered the league in 2020 and spent the first two seasons in the Eastern Conference. The teams will meet again on Sept. 10 at GEODIS Park in Tennessee.
Last season, Nashville allowed just 33 goals in 34 games. Nashville, which opened the season with eight consecutive road games, completed the stretch with 11 points (3-3-2).
The first half went as expected as the Galaxy spent the 45 minutes attempting to break down Nashville’s stout defensive back line.
The Galaxy thought it had grounds for a penalty midway through the first half as Kevin Cabral was tracking down a loose ball in the penalty area and was taken down by a Nashville defender, who was attempting to clear the ball. Referee Allen Chapman didn’t rule the play a penalty.
In the second half, it could be said that the Galaxy was the only team in the attacking half of the field. For long stretches, the Galaxy had Nashville pinned in its own half, trying to find an opening. In the final stats, the Galaxy had nearly 70% of the possession.
“That’s sometimes the way it is when you play a good team with five in the back, especially with three center backs who do a good job of protecting their goal,” Vanney said. “Sometimes you have to be patient and you’ve got to try to move those guys, you have to try to get from side-to-side and build your attacks around the outside because there is so much density in the middle.
“I thought the way the game looked in the second half, was probably the way the game was going to look in my opinion if we could establish possession, we would force them into a defensive posture and the question is could we break them down and could we get the good look on goal?”
In the 81st minute, it almost came as Hernandez played a 1-2 with Raheem Edwards, got behind the defense and got a shot off but Willis made a kick save to end the threat.
That set the stage for Joveljic, who entered the game in the 77th, replacing Cabral. Joveljic was initially going to come in approximately 10 minutes earlier, but Vanney held him back.
“I thought if Dejan could get facing forward with his finishing ability, he would have a good look on goal,” Vanney said.
This is the Galaxy’s fifth clean sheet of the season and third in a row, when factoring in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup victory over San Diego Loyal SC.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism