Nashville SC

Profile: Cameron Lancaster

Lancaster__Cameron_large.jpg
Courtesy Louisville City FC

Nashville SC has added its biggest offseason signing yet. Louisville City’s Cameron Lancaster will move from Purple to Gold for the 2019 season.

“Who is Cameron Lancaster?” you find yourself asking. “Well,” I respond, “he’s only the USL’s single-season record-holder for goals scored, and he did that just last year! I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of him before!”

Lancaster was the Golden Boot winner (obviously, given the above) this season – for those keeping score, that means Nashville SC has brought in the No. 1 and No. 2 (Ríos was tied with Orange County’s Thomas Enevoldsen) scorers in the league last year – with his 26 goals. He netted them in multiple ways, with 17 coming from the right foot, six from the left foot, and three off his head. It took him 110 total shots (65 of those on-frame) to get there, a conversion rate of 24%. Only Brandon Allen – who took three penalties to help get to his conversion rate of 30% – was in that range for Nashville last year.

Given that Lancaster put those scoring numbers together in 2,179 minutes across 33 games (66 minutes per game), that equates to more than a goal for every 90 played. I believe that to be prolific. He really is primarily a finisher, with just two assists and 23 total key passes (passes leading to a shot, even if it doesn’t go in) across the entire season.

He was a 74.1% passer, completed one of seven attempted crosses – Louisville City did a few different things schematically this year, and most commonly used a 3-4-3, in which Lancaster was typically the center forward but sometimes pushed out wide –

For his efforts, Lancaster was first-team All-USL, and he joins Ríos in coming to Nashville after earning such a distinction. Right-sided defender Darnell King was second-team all-league, and centerback Ken Tribbett only missed out on those lists because he missed 13 games due to injury. If you’re looking for the next players Nashville SC will target, you might want to keep an eye on the league honors and figure out who isn’t currently signed (of course, I’ll actually do that for you: Enevoldsen and Louisville City defender Paco Craig are the only unsigned first-teamers at this point, Swope Park forward Hadji Barry is the only second-teamer – which means everybody who didn’t sign with the team they played for in 2018 either is headed to Nashville or went to Canada to help launch a Canadian Premier League team (NCFC’s Kyle Bekker)).

Let’s go to the film… Here’s his scoring reel through most of the regular-season games this season:

 

He does the fox-in-the-box stuff no doubt, but a lot of his scoring comes from excellent placement (including on four direct free kicks), audacious attempts (check the goal at 1:15), and a willingness to just put the ball on frame and see what happens. For all Nashville SC’s low conversion rate last year, not enough of that last one happened, and a team that was less afraid of failure might have knocked home a few more.

The 26-year old Lancaster has spent all four of his years in the United States with Louisville City, and while none of the previous seasons were record-setters in the way 2018 was, they were also productive: he scored eight goals and meted out one assist for the USL Champions in 2017 as the second-leading scorer (in about half the minutes of leader Luke Spencer), and scored four goals in 1,086 minutes 2016. He made just one appearance for LCFC in 2015 because he began his American career with quite a bit of bad luck, which actually followed him a bit from his time in Tottenham’s academy in his native London:

Could you talk me through your career after you left Spurs?

Cameron: After my debut I got injured pretty badly and was out for a year and after coming back from that I had 6 months playing and did my ACL. My contract was coming to an end so we mutually agreed to call it a day. I went to stevenage for about 2 months and then had an opertunity to get to America so I took it. Unfortunately I did my other ACL 2 weeks after signing for Louisville City but I’m all good now and we won the league last season.

He’s been healthy ever since fully returning from that second tear, so I wouldn’t consider him injury-prone at this point. Fortunately, NSC is beginning to build the depth – returning strikers Tucker Hume and Ropapa Mensah, plus MLS signing Daniel Ríos and winger Kharlton Belmar – that he doesn’t need to be an every-minute guy and risk re-injury. You also know he’s going to be very productive when he is in the game.

At 6-0, 163 pounds – or “exactly the same size as me,” the voices in my head chime in yet again – he’s not a physically dominant player, but you can tell from his productivity (18 of his goals came from inside the box this year, including the three headers) that he’s more than strong enough to mix it up with the big boys. He doesn’t have a great duel success rate (39.7%, 28.7% on aerials), so he’s certainly not your hold-up guy.

Having just turned 26 a couple days before helping LCFC hoist the USL Championship trophy for the second straight year, he’s got several good years left, as well. This is a guy who can play, and can dominate this level… probably in a situation similar to Ríos where the plan is to take him to MLS and we can assume a multi-year contract (hey I’m writing this a day early, give me a break if it’s in the release).

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