Dave Romney photo courtesy Nashville SC
Yesterday, Nashville SC formally announced the signings of midfielder Dax McCarty and defender Dave Romney. With the pre-Expansion Draft trade window open for another eight hours, are we likely to see any more action?
What an MLS roster looks like
We know some of Nashville SC’s players – nine of the 18-30 that is the theoretical range on a roster (by MLS rule). What do they need to add though? Let’s take a look at the general composition of a roster.
The average MLS team has 29.3 total players (though that also includes everyone on the books – including those out on loan, who aren’t actually on the team’s roster at a given time). Based on the distinctions given in the MLS Players’ Association’s salary guide, they are broken down on average as follows:
3.4 Goalkeepers. Most teams carry exactly three keepers, though a couple carried four and Chicago Fire had five on their books. The aiming point would be three keepers, and NAshville currently doesn’t have the first one.
8.7 Defenders (Nashville: 1, Dave Romney). This is another area where the Boys in Gold have a lot of work to do. Signing a four-position defender in Dave Romney is a good start, but NSC must fill out the centerback position with at least three more signings, and a couple fullbacks for either side, as well.
2.5 “Defender-Midfielders” (Nashville: 1, Aníbal Godoy). This is one of the positions that the MLSPA sort of lumps together as a catch-all. It can be defensive midfielders – like NSC’s early signing of Aníbal Godoy – it can be hybrid fullback/wingbacks, or it can be guys who are primarily defenders that would slot into midfield in a pinch – or any combination thereof.
That obviously provides plenty of flexibility at this non-existent position: Nashville could easily sign more players with the D-M position, or they could end up with zero if they sign guys who fit squarely into D or M boxes.
4.8 Midfielders (Nashville: 2, Derrick Jones and Dax McCarty). Nashville currently has two defense-first midfielders who don’t carry the D-M distinction to the MLSPA, sort of underscoring the fluid meaning of that role, right? I’d expect more depth at pure midfield positions, including guys who can play wide but are not pure attacking wingers. Even if NSC is expected to base out of a 4-2-3-1 formation, defensively-oriented wide mids for 4-4-2 concepts are still needed.
5.9 “Midfielder-Forwards” (Nashville: 3, David Accam, Randall Leal, and Hany Mukhtar). Attacking midfielders and wingers tend to fit into this box (though again, they could also be listed as forwards or midfielders – these aren’t hard-and-fast spots). With two left wingers in the fold, at least one right-sided winger and more depth at the center attacking midfield position would be helpful here.
4.0 Forwards (Nashville: 2, Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos). This spot can mean pure No. 9 center forwards (as both of Nashville’s current signings are), or it also encompasses some wingers, some second-striker types (or offense-only attacking mids), etc. etc. I have faith that Ríos will be a very good MLS player – and Lancaster may be if he can stay healthy – but a true goal-getter who’s more proven at a high level is likely, along with someone who’s positionally flexible but carries the distinction.
What’s possible in the next eight hours
Nashville could continue building its roster by making trades before the Trade Window closes at 7 p.m. CST.
It wouldn’t surprise, in fact, if we heard news that the Boys in Gold worked out permanent deals for one or both of the centerbacks that they had on loan for the second half of the USL season in 2019. Both Forrest Lasso and Jimmy Ockford seemed to be at a higher level than the Championship, and at the very least – especially given both came from MLS teams – could stick as depth players on the Nashville roster.
Other deals are possible too: as you can see from the above, there are plenty of roster slots to fill. Nashville has three and a half months before the season kicks off, of course. There are multiple roster-building mechanisms to use before that, including the Expansion Draft in under a week. The SuperDraft (picking college players, typically to fill out the back-end of a roster) takes place in January. There’s a true transfer window (when Nashville can register players coming from non-MLS leagues) opening in mid-February.
However, it’s still possible that we get a little bit of action by this evening.
The Expansion Draft is the next bigtime event for Nashville SC fans to watch (and indeed, they can watch from the club’s War Room downtown, at Ole Red on Broadway Tuesday, with the party starting at 4 p.m.). Nashville will have the opportunity to pick five players from current MLS rosters – or current as of tonight’s roster-lock, at least – and either sign them or flip those assets for others within the league.
Before the Draft itself, though, comes the list of available players. With five clubs (DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls, and Vancouver Whitecaps) completely off-limits, and the other 19 returning clubs able to protect 12 of their current players apiece, seeing who is left unprotected will be very instructive as to the directions Nashville can go.
The list of available players will be released at 9:00 a.m. CST Saturday (there have been multiple date/time combinations stated by MLS HQ, this is the most recent update to it). Paring through that list – fear not, I’ve already got plenty of pre-production out of the way in that regard – will occupy much of the weekend, leading into Tuesday’s Expansion Draft.
Stay tuned to FCAC for all the updates along the way.