The latest entry in #Project2019.
We’ve looked at the personnel turnover for Nashville SC from multiple angles this offseason, but there’s one important question remaining: what needs have yet to be filled?
The club has augmented its offensive and defensive ranks with all-league-caliber talent, including the top two scorers in USL last year (both on loan from Nashville MLS), a couple players who were on MLS contracts last year, and some under-recognized talent in addition to those who were named to All-USL teams at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Who’s left to be added? From the offseason tracker, here is the makeup of last year’s team as compared to what has been signed to fill the departing players:
- 14 returning (one goalie, three central defenders one of whom can also play fullback, two fullback/wingbacks, four defense-minded central midfielders, two midfield/forward types who can also be wingers, two strikers, one of whom can also be a winger)
- 14 players out (two keepers, four defenders, five midfielders, three forwards/wingers)
- Six players in so far (two strikers, one forward/winger, a fullback who can also slide inside, a center back, and a goalie)
If you assume – unfairly so, it must be noted – that the roster will have the same positional makeup, that means Technical Director Mike Jacobs will still be on the hunt for a goalie, two defenders, and five midfielders.
However, it’s also worth noting that the majority of those players got either very little or no playing time last year. Will the composition of this year’s roster be wrapped up with depth pieces? Or will, like the players already added to last year’s core, there be an upward, aspirational philosophy in not only augmenting the returning guys, but perhaps supplanting them as contributors.
I would imagine there has to be a focus on adding midfielders whether they become depth pieces or are expected to be contributors: even though most of the departed players (Martim Galvão, Josh Hughes, Blake Levine, Ian McGrath) didn’t see USL time (Ish Jome, who contributed in multiple positions, is the exception), the team needs depth and quite frankly could use another high-powered, technical player to augment the returning group. A fully healthy Lebo Moloto and a step forward from Ramone Howell (who is more defensively-minded, but does have upside on offense) could certainly fill that role pretty well – especially with the added talent up top to bang home more of the goals – but a creative midfielder could be the lone missing piece among potential contributors.
On the other hand, if NSC continues to make signings that indicate the intention to compete for the USL Championship, uh, championship, and to build toward the MLS roster, you could continue to see more exciting signings.
A 1,000-minute defender is probably necessary to give the current players a bit of rest (whether that’s a fullback or more versatile guy) in addition to a contributing midfielder. A third goalie will likely come from the ranks of recent college graduates, and the rest will likely be young pros whose primary goal for the year is to get high-level experience in practice to build toward a professional career.
Is that a team that can compete to win the USL title? With what projects to be another strong defense and the added scoring punch up top, the most important pieces may already be in place.