Nashville SC created one of its biggest splashes yet on the road to Major League Soccer yesterday, signing San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Aníbal Godoy, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The Panamanian destroyer-type is someone who’s been on the team’s radar for a long time.
In fact, NSC General Manager Mike Jacobs had experience with Godoy long before Nashville was even a twinkle in the eye of either man. Jacobs, then the assistant GM of Sporting Kansas City, was on the wrong end of a lopsided result against the Quakes.
“I was at his second game in the league in 2015,” Jacobs explained. “The San Jose Earthquakes absolutely blitzed Sporting Kansas City in our home stadium, 5-0. Aníbal’s a man among boys. Following him in San Jose, following him with the national team in Panama, he’s someone that’s been on our radar for a long time.”
That interest was only amplified by a consensus between Jacobs, head coach Gary Smith, assistant GM Ally Mackay, and chief scout Chance Myers on the domestic targets for their team.
“The four of us went away, we looked at the positional profiles we have, and we looked at MLS, and we came back together and put our 11 players on the board,” Jacobs explained. “There was only one player on all four sheets, and it was Anibal Godoy. He’s someone very early on that we felt fit our product.”
While mostly known as a deep-lying No. 6 (holding midfielder) in Major League Soccer, Godoy has a wider skillset than he’s sometimes given credit for. Smith has long been known for heavy deployment of defensive midfielders (and has almost exclusively lined up with two such players during his time as the club’s USL coach), and that may not change in the near future.
Godoy can bring an added dimension to a position like that, and get involved in the offense, as well.
“I think he’s actually a little bit more versatile than that,” Smith explained. “He’s very very capable of fulfilling that role in front of a backline: he’s an individual that we’ve looked at pretty much all of this season in terms of concentrating between all of the group, what players might fight, who does that job as well as anyone in that league.
“Anibal’s name kept coming up. He certainly has the attributes to be more progressive in the opponent’s half of the field than I think he’s given credit for. When you dig deeper into his work and the way that he plays, I think we will find, having watched him an awful lot, that Anibal will be a cornerstone of this group.”
For his part, Godoy is willing to put in the hard work on and off the pitch to help the team achieve success.
“Inside the field, outside the field, I want to work hard,” the 29-year old said. “I know it’s a new experience for me, for my family. I think I give everything – I’ll try to give everything for Nashville, for this franchise. I feel grateful. To go there, go to the club. This club has so many dreams.
“I feel like very happy. I try to work hard for the future for the best position for the Nashville team for the next year. This is what I want: win everything for Nashville next year.”
The questions around Godoy’s signing haven’t revolved around his quality as a player. A Panamanian International in shouting distance of ending his career as the all-time leader in caps, he’s also been a mainstay of the Earthquakes since arriving midseason in 2015. The pricetag, on the other hand, has drawn some criticism.
Nashville SC spent $650,000 of General Allocation Money to acquire Godoy from the Earthquakes. It’s by far the most given in a player-for-allocation swap during this Summer’s MLS transfer window.
A combination of the circumstances around NSC’s expansion season and the degree to which they wanted Godoy specifically justified the cost for a front office that had been frugal to-date, potentially saving up for just this move.
“Because expansion teams start with more General Allocation Money, it’s very common to see deals where players are acquired at maybe a higher valuation,” Jacobs said. “The reality is that we keep a pretty close eye on monetary and fiscal evaluations of our players. We were elated. When you look at the spending Cincinnati for Adi and Waston, LA with Lee Nguyen. Each of those clubs spent more money on those moves than we spent on this one. Previously we were financially shrewd, we were willing to push the envelope to acquire him.
“We were very dogged from the perspective that we were going to pursue him heavily. Acquiring players within the league, the reality is players of Aníbal’s ability, clubs don’t want to part with players like that. San Jose’s been on an incredible run. He’s been injured recently, but he’s been a key part of that: he’s been integral to the start of that turnaround. They weren’t looking to move a player like that. We had to put ourselves in a position whether it was pay enough, the attention we gave… we had to do as much as we could to make them consider parting with a player like that.”
Godoy became the fifth player signed to a Major League Soccer contract as the Boys in Gold head into their inaugural season. Current USL players Daniel Ríos and Cameron Lancaster signed prior to the season, while Nashville traded for the Homegrown rights of midfielder Derrick Jones (who has also played for the current USL side, though he’s currently out of the lineup with an ankle injury). Winger David Accam will head to Nashville in January on a similar deal to Godoy’s, remaining with his current team, the Columbus Crew, through the remainder of the 2019 season.