Joe Willis made 14 saves, including one to stop a first-half penalty kick, and visiting Nashville SC closed their regular season with a 1-0 victory over LAFC on Saturday in both teams’ season finale.
Teal Bunbury scored his fifth goal of the season shortly after halftime for Nashville (13-10-11, 50 points), which sealed a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference and will face the LA Galaxy in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs next weekend.
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Willis preserved his ninth shutout of the season as Nashville became just the second team this season to win at LAFC (21-9-4, 67 points) after Austin FC did so on May 18.
Hany Mukhtar did not score for Nashville, but he finished as the MLS Golden Boot winner with 23 goals, one ahead of Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi, who scored in a win over Colorado.
Denis Bouanga, Kwadwo Opoku and Cristian Tello were among those denied by Willis during open play in a game that had few ramifications for an LAFC team that won the Supporters’ Shield last weekend.
Cristian Arango, LAFC’s leading scorer, was denied from the penalty spot late in the first half. Carlos Vela, who leads the team in assists, exited the match late in the first half and went to the locker room but did not appear to have a serious injury.
LAFC will have a first-round bye before playing the winner of Nashville’s game with the Galaxy. The club also has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Carlos Bocanegra’s side was dominant with nothing to show for it before halftime, outshooting Nashville 14-2 overall before the break and 7-0 in efforts on target.
Bouanga saw their best first-half chance from the run of play denied by Willis’ point-blank save in the 28th minute.
Then Willis denied Arango’s penalty with an outstretched palm in first-half stoppage time after Daniel Lovitz took Arango down in the box.
Nashville’s best period of the match was the opening 15 minutes of the second half and led to a goal. Mukhtar’s corner kick from the left appeared to take a slight deflection before Bunbury met it at the back post with a clean, side-winding half volley that gave LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau little chance.
LAFC pressed on. But Bouanga hit the post in the 63rd minute, and Willis denied Opoku in the 66th and the 77th.