LAFC ends goal drought by beating Nashville, 5-0

Sujey Luna - The Sporting Tribune
LAFC broke their second-longest scoring drought with a five goal performance.

LOS ANGELES — LAFC had been goalless in its previous three matches, leading to a draw and two losses. They were on the second-longest goal drought in history. But the team was not worried. And they showed why they had little concern in a 5-0 win over Nashville SC. 

LAFC started on the front foot, piling in chances, and it took little time for them to capitalize. Nine minutes into the match, midfielder Timothy Tillman put away a loose ball off a corner kick to give them a 1-0 lead.

16 minutes into the match, Sergi Palencia struck a volley on goal that Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis saved. But, as Tillman looked to rebound, he was fouled. That gave LAFC a penalty that forward Denis Bouanga put away, making it 2-0 in favor of LAFC. 

It was Bouanga’s first goal of the season, one that head coach Steve Cherundolo felt was coming.

“He was close, and if you look at the stats, he should have scored already in the first couple of games,” Cherundolo said. “The past couple of games, he did not, but he did tonight. I thought his overall effort, decision-making on the ball, when to pass, when to dribble, and when to shoot himself was phenomenal. His effort was there. We saw an aggressive player, a player the league got to know, fear, and respect, and that’s what we saw again tonight.”

Bouanga was motivated by the team’s goal drought and his lack of goals, hoping to improve on his 2023 Golden Boot season.

“[The drought] actually motivates me even more not to have scored for so long,” Bouanga said. “But there are so many good players around that can score. I am not the only one doing that. It is important to take pleasure on the pitch. That motivation is big. And then to please the family and to please the fans is another motivation.”

In the first half of the stoppage, Olivera played a ball to Bouanga in front of the goal, but his shot hit the crossbar. Moments later, Bouanga fired another shot after splitting two defenders but was denied by the post. 

Finally, Bouanga finally found the back of the net for the second time 48 minutes into the match. He buried a shot after an excellent dummy by midfielder Eduard Atuesta. Palencia was credited with the assist. 

Palencia started as one of LAFC’s outside backs instead of the usual starter, Omar Campos, who was with Mexico’s U-23 National Team.

“Excellent performance from him [Palencia] tonight,” Cherundolo said. “He brought energy, aggressiveness, calmness, and a load of experience. He brought that to the team tonight, which we desperately needed.

His performance was one of the best he’s had, and we were very happy with that. We would love to use him more. It is certainly a luxury for any coach or player like that who has come from the bench more often than started. But I am certain you’ll see more of that Sergi and more often frequently this season.”

62 minutes into the match, the referees gave Willis a red card after he stopped a shot from Olivera from outside the box, making matters worse for Nashville. Then, LAFC continued their dominance. 

75 minutes into the match, Atuesta played a ball to forward David Martinez, who found Olivera, who scored his first goal of the season to put LAFC ahead, 4-0.

The 18-year-old Martinez recorded his first MLS assist in his fourth regular-season appearance. The Venezuelan native joined LAFC from Monagas S.C. through MLS’s U22 Intiitvate in February.

Martinez’s assist is just a glimpse of his potential in MLS and beyond. 

“Very young, just turned 18,” said Cherundolo about Martinez. “Moved to a foreign country in a crazy, wonderful city like LA. There’s been a lot going on in his life right now.

I remember what I was doing at that age, but it wasn’t what he was doing. We are patient with him, but everybody sees his ability, and his talent is phenomenal. We will progress David [Martinez] along as fast as we can, but we always keep an eye on him and make sure he is progressing and happy and settled. He has a lot of potential and is going to be a phenomenal player in this league and hopefully elsewhere.”

To finish the match in second-half stoppage time, Bouanga played a short cross to Atuesta, who headed it in, making the final score 5-0.

LAFC won decisively and will look to continue building momentum. Next, they play the Colorado Rapids on March 30.