Nashville had clinched its third straight MLS Cup Playoff berth when it entered the match. But, the celebrations ended halfway through the first period. Sebastian Ferreira, Houston, scored in the 26th minute from the penalty spot. In the 30th minute, the center forward doubled his score. Nashville suffered its fifth home loss of season and tied the LA Galaxy for most home losses by a playoff-bound team in Western Conference.
Nashville is down to three wins against the West’s bottom three teams, with a 2-1 win against Sporting Kansas City in April 9.
Questionable penalty call
Nashville’s woes on Sunday can be reduced to a 26th-minute penalty against Walker Zimmerman, center back for contradicting reasons.
Houston lobbed the ball inside the penalty box to forward Corey Baird. Zimmerman brushed up on Baird after he deflected it out of danger. Baird was knocked on the shin by Zimmerman, causing him to fall to the floor. Play continued initially, but Nashville’s center forward Hany Moukhtar missed an opportunity to score at the other end.
VAR official Alex Chilowicz signaled to Guido Gonzales Jr. from the review booth that the ball had gone out of bounds. He then whistled for a penalty kick. According to the MLS Video Review twitter account, Zimmerman tripped Baird in the box. According to mlssoccer.com, Zimmerman “conceded a penalty area handball.”
Mukhtar’s open net miss
Mukhtar is leading MLS in goals (23), but he had the best chance of 2022 to double that number and move three goals ahead Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi (21). He also has the opportunity of becoming MLS MVP.
Moments before the controversial Zimmerman penalty, in the 23rd minute, a long ball passed through Houston’s defense and bounced between them, as well as Dynamo goalkeeper Steve Clark. Clark raced towards the 18-yard penalty box edge, but Mukhtar grabbed the ball first. Clark was unable to get the ball over Mukhtar, who threw it high, kissed and held the crossbar, and then chipped it over Clark. This was Nashville’s only goal from 16 shots.
Bad play against bad teams
The West’s worst three teams are Houston Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes and San Jose Earthquakes. They have combined 29 wins and a goal differential of -38. They have outscored Nashville 9-5.
Austin and Dallas are currently second and third in West. These are the two teams Nashville hosted at Geodis Park and succumbed to crushing 3-0 and 4-0 scores. Nashville has been a winner over destined playoff contenders but has struggled to be competitive at home against three teams eliminated from playoff contention in the last few weeks.
Playing for your home field
Nashville had already secured a playoff spot, but Los Angeles FC defeated the Portland Timbers to win the match. Los Angeles FC was able to leverage its advantage on the LA Galaxy and secure a home-field advantage for the postseason next week, which is the last game of the regular season.
Nashville could have jumped to third in the West, even though Minnesota and Dallas lost their games. LA tied Real Salt Lake. It would have needed a draw at LAFC next Sunday to be at least fourth in standings. From the seven teams from each conference, the top four teams will host their first game.