Nashville SC pulled the ol’ switcheroo on fans today, announcing a new signing that was not the exciting Cameron Lancaster rumor floated by The Athletic‘s Jeff Rueter. It’s unfortunate for Kharlton Belmar, because an extremely good signing is being looked at as a disappointment. His resume certainly doesn’t deserve that.
Belmar is one of the players I predicted NSC might sign, having played for both Sporting Kansas City and Swope Park Rangers while Mike Jacobs was their technical director. Let’s take a look at what he’s done in the past several years…
2015: 28 games with Portland Timbers 2, 12 goals
2016: 25 games with Timbers 2, three goals
2017: 32 games with Swope Park, 15 goals (11 right-footed, four headed). 75.7% passing on pretty high volume (24.1 passes/90). 3/18 crossing success, three assists and 22 key passes on the year. 60.2% aerial duel success. One regular-season and one US Open Cup appearance for Sporting KC.
2018: 22 games with Swope Park, 10 goals (four left-footed, five right-footed, one headed). 78.4% passing on even higher volume (29.9 passes/90). 11/41 crossing success, six assists and 26 key passes on the year. Four regular-season appearances for SKC, one in US Open Cup, scoring a goal and recording an assist in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
So: this is a guy who has been walking the MLS/USL borderline for the past couple years… which seems a really good signing for a team that is walking along that same borderline in 2019 and 2020, yes? Belmar has always been productive, and should continue to be so with his new team – especially given the talent loaded up around him. He may not end up with a ton of goals, but as you can see, he’s become a more well-rounded player as time has gone on, and his ability to assist, cross, etc. could see him become a true winger.
He began to adapt into that role for Swope this past year (helping explain some of the shifting in his stats), flanking USL [Second] Best-XI selection Hadji Berry or fellow forward Tyler Blackwood as a wide midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 or a winger in a 4-3-3. He played significantly on both sides – and the system allowed for the wingers to swap sides in the course of a single game, as well. He primarily lined up on the right in the starting lineup, but showed capable of scoring and assisting with both feet from either side.
“Kharlton’s combination of outstanding athleticism and relentless mentality make him a threat to get behind opposing defenses,” said Nashville SC technical director Mike Jacobs. “He has demonstrated throughout his career the ability to create and finish scoring chances, and we know that he will bring an added dimension to our club.”
At 5-11, 159 pounds, he’s adequately sized to be anywhere up front, though he’s really not a target man. As a center forward seeing a renaissance as a wide forward… he sounds like a smaller – but more polished – version of Ropapa Mensah, does he not? That’s pretty good to me. Put both of them on the field flanking Daniel Ríos (or fingers-crossed for another great finishing center forward), and you have a heck of a potent attack.
Here’s his highlight reel from the past two years at Swope:
He really likes to use his speed to get in behind, whether that’s running up the wing or bursting through the middle. For a moderately-sized guy, he shows the strength (and technical ability) to ward off defenders while maintaining possession of the ball and giving himself an angle to pass or dribble into space. The ball seems to stick to his foot in traffic, through that technical ability – with an assist from his natural speed and surprising strength.
He has a good feel for space, including when to run into it to create a scoring opportunity for himself, but also to make room for his teammates in the offensive third. His passing vision is good, but it does seem like his eye for the game manifests itself more in allowing Belmar to be the creator or finisher than picking out small windows to find others. He’s always ready to get the ball, and has a knack for finishing in close to the keeper (with whom he manages to find himself one-on-one a lot). He can also get up and finish headers over center backs, which is nice for a guy who’s not huge.
You don’t see a ton of the true crosses in this reel, which is sort of a bummer because I’m pretty interested in how those look (evidently not too many of them turned into assists), and I anticipate he’ll have that sort of role for Nashville SC this year.
Belmar just turned 26 couple weeks ago, so he’s right in that age wheelhouse of being a potential transition player for the MLS days. He has certainly shown with an MLS team (SKC) already that he’s at that “occasional contributor level” and with further development in a demanding situation with very high expectations this season, it’s entirely possible that he’s among the players making the jump.
For what it’s worth, he made $68,200 from Sporting Kansas City last year, so I’d imagine his compensation is around that range again this year (with the club declining his option, it may be a bit lower). My understanding is that would have been one of the better-compensated players from the 2018 team.
From a personal perspective, he’s interested in photography (which I’ve actually noticed is a trend among athletes in recent years. Maybe it’s a hobby that’s passed out of “lame” so they consider it acceptable to publicize?). Get this man behind the lens!