The next phase in Project 2019.
We officially know who is staying and who is going for Nashville SC, We also know three of the signings to join the team for 2019. What gaps still remain?
The Boys in Gold will need to find a true backup keeper, and a third-stringer who is comfortable getting very few minutes. The playing time demands of the No. 2 keeper could be interesting: Is Matt Pickens going to be able to play 32 games again? At 37 years old, will he continue the transition from player to coach? Cochran likely would have stayed around if the path to minutes was more clear, so we’re probably going for two guys without much expectation of seeing the field.
From my perspective, it appears that the depth here is pretty good. One more centerback who’s comfortable in any of the three positions across the back (it does seem likely that Nashville SC is planning to go back to the 5-3-2 formation for 2019), including being the man in the middle, is a likely needed addition.
Each of these spots has a couple guys who should be ready to play, but three of the four can also slot in elsewhere (Davis and King at CB on their respective sides of the field, Washington as a wide midfielder). Another left wingback – if NSC is indeed planning to base out of the 5-3-2 – would be a nice signing, since that’s a bit of an unnatural fit for Davis.
This position seems to be pretty well-stocked, but could use an upgrade both for a starter and in terms of quality depth. My dream of Jeff Larentowicz fades yet again (he’s under contract with Atlanta United, though they did leave him unprotected in the MLS Expansion Draft).
Pending Moloto’s health entering the beginning of the season (by all accounts, he should be fully healthy, if not quite 100% fit), more depth here is needed, especially because of the personnel overlap – say Moloto’s on the right wing and Winn on the left (something we saw at times, with the first FC Cincinnati game (at Nissan Stadium) coming to mind) – suddenly LaGrassa is the only player available for the role. A more consistent creator could be an upgrade to non-Moloto options.
Left-footed wing mid (LM or inverted RM)
Right-footed wing mid (RM or inverted LM)
A quick note: Nashville didn’t always have a lefty and a right on the field at the same time: there were instances where we saw one inverted winger and the other a traditional (crossing with the dominant foot) player. So: while it looks like there is an abundance on the right and a dearth on the left, know that the footedness isn’t strictly one from the first category and one from the second. Still, more personnel here would be quite nice indeed, though if NSC goes primarily 5-3-2, the focus would be other areas of the field.
Right footed winger
Ríos immediately becomes a starter, whether that’s as a lone striker or one of two guys up top. That probably means Ropapa Mensah starts with him (or continues his growth by learning other roles on the field), and if we’re not anticipating heavy use of true wing forwards, the overlap between that position and wide midfielder probably covers everything.
What does it all mean?
That’s a lot of information, and digesting it requires a sort of abstract view of the field, because there are areas where the depth chart overlaps, and some where it doesn’t. Where does it seem like we’re looking for help? There are 17 players currently signed to the team. 23 make a game-week squad (those designated eligible to play in a given game), 18 make the game-day squad (the 11 starters and seven available to be subbed in), and the total roster is 30.
Given the above-listed depth situations, and assuming all returning players are likely members of the weekly squad, it seems Nashville’s top 23 still needs…
- Two backup keepers
- One-plus centerback, possibly two-plus if the three-man backline is going to be a mainstay.
- At least one fullback, and probably one comfortable on both side of the field (or a guy comfortable on the left and one comfortable on the right)
- A CDM only if he’s an talent upgrade from the current roster
- A CAM if Moloto’s not 100% at the beginning of the season, and possibly an upgrade to the guys behind Moloto to compete with him either way
- At least one left-footed wing midfielder/forward.
I project Howell top be a fringe player for the 23, so that’s seven guys in addition to the current players (the third keeper is almost always in the 23, but rarely in the gameday 18). The remaining six players for the 30-man roster would probably be depth first and foremost, with some capable of playing roles during the season. A backup CB and a number of wide players (fullbacks, midfielders, wingers) would probably be the priorities there with the middle of the pitch looking pretty solid.
The club’s offseason signings to date do appear to be a bit more ambitious than I was expecting, with Ríos, Tribbett, and King all USL-XI-caliber players (though Tribbett’s long-term injury kept him from joining Ríos on the first or King on the second). That could alter the calculus just a bit in terms of who signs – and who from the current roster gets replaced in the lineup.