Not quite as exciting as a proven USL goal-scorer, Blake Levine is nonetheless a nice addition for Nashville SC along with this morning’s other signing, Kris Tyrpak.
He finished his NAIA career at Baker University just this May, and played the NPSL season with Inter Nashville FC. He joined the roster at the beginning of the season, but didn’t work his way into the final seven games, though he made at least an appearance in each of those, totaling 333 minutes and two goals, both in a 6-2 win over Georgia Revolution (in which NSC loanee Ian McGrath also notched one).
Baker played in the NAIA Tournament all four years of Levine’s college career, and he scored 32 career goals, capping out at 10 during his senior year last Fall (during which he was an NAIA All-American alongside teammates Steeve Pouna and Alberto Ciroi), to go along with 20 career assists. Here’s his college highlight reel:
At 5-9 and with no listed weight (but certainly not looking like a tank, and in fact looking rather small next to teammates and opponents), his game sort of follows along with his physique: he’s more about getting into good spaces with his vision and dribbling and launching shots, rather than trying to win physical matchups. He’s willing to shoot from semi-audacious distances or angles, and while he doesn’t have a rocket, those shots have a chance to go in.
It’s worth noting that he has a connection to Technical Director Mike Jacobs – he’s a Sporting KC Academy product, and Jacobs spent his time immediately before joining Nashville SC as the assistant TD for SKC (including leading the USL side, Swope Park Rangers). There’s a familiarity that we’ve seen recur as a theme when building this roster, and given how solid Nashville’s team has been despite being on the lower end of USL salaries, an eye for identifying and developing talent.
That said, Levine’s ability to contribute doesn’t jump off the screen like Tyrpak’s does. I think Jacobs’s quote on the Nashville SC website speaks to his role:
“Blake is a grinder, and has the ideal attitude, effort, and commitment of a professional. We are pleased to have him add depth to our midfield.”
That’s a guy who’s developing, contributing in practice, maybe making a couple appearances here and there, but not exactly a key piece to the team. Having good-not-great production in NPSL follows in that theme, as well. Levine did play mostly forward for Baker, and appears to have done the same for Inter Nashville (he was not in the squad for the Nashville SC game in the Open Cup, for what it’s worth). That he’s listed as a midfielder means there’s going to be an adjustment from a personal perspective and a learning curve in how to fit into that role.
He may get a few spot minutes here and there – and like Tyrpak, he’s eligible for selection for this weekend’s game – but this is more about the future than adding a guy to contribute today.