Nashville SC

Expansion Draft Day: Nashville SC preview

Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

The day is finally here! Nashville SC will be drafting not drafts, but players! Let’s get down to it.

What it is, how to watch

As an expansion team, Nashville SC gets to select five players from other (existing) MLS teams. Since Inter Miami FC is also entering for the 2020 season, the teams will take turns drafting those players. Miami gets first pick, after winning a coin toss in early October. There will be 10 total picks, with each pick occurring after just a three-minute timer.

There’s more nuance, though: Five teams (DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls, and Vancouver Whitecaps) are totally off-limits because they had a player selected in last year’s Expansion Draft – a solo deal for FC Cincinnati. The remaining teams each had the opportunity to protect 12 players on their rosters, while certain categories of young players are automatically protected. That leaves a list of 222 players from whom NSC and IMFC will be selecting. Once a given team has a player selected, they’re out of the draft – only one player can be lost per team, so the 10 picks will come from 10 different teams.

The Draft begins at 4:30 p.m. CST. If you can’t make Nashville SC’s Draft Day party at Ole Red on Broadway (starting half an hour before the Draft itself begins), you can stream it live on MLSSoccer.com.

Past drafts

All recent expansion of the league has featured incoming squads participating in some form of Expansion Draft (with some adjustments to the format over the years). Here’s a look at how some of the recent selections played out:

FC Cincinnati (2019 inaugural season)
Player Picked from Play or flip?
Darren Mattocks D.C. United Played for FCC
Kei Kamara Vancouver Whitecaps Flipped to Colorado Rapids for International Roster Slot
Roland Lamah FC Dallas Played for FCC
Eric Alexander Houston Dynamo Played for FCC
Hassan Ndam New York Red Bulls Played for FCC (loaned to NCFC)
Los Angeles FC (2018 inaugural season)
Player Picked from Play or flip?
Tyler Miller Seattle Sounders Played for LAFC
Latif Blessing Sporting Kansas City Played for LAFC
Marco Ureña San Jose Earthquakes Played for LAFC
Jukka Raitala Columbus Crew SC Flipped to Montreal Impact for Laurent Ciman
Raheem Edwards Toronto FC Flipped to Montreal Impact for Laurent Ciman
Atlanta United (2017 inaugural season)
Player Picked from Play or flip?
Donny Toia Montreal Impact Flipped to Orlando City SC for first-round pick in SuperDraft
Zach Lloyd FC Dallas Played for ATL (did not see game time)
Clint Irwin Toronto FC Traded back to Toronto for Mark Bloom and General Allocation Money
Mikey Ambrose Orlando City SC Played for ATL
Alec Kann Sporting Kansas City Played for ATL
Minnesota United (2017 inaugural season)
Player Picked from Play or flip?
Chris Duval New York Red Bulls Flipped to Montreal Impact
Collen Warner Houston Dynamo Played for MNUFC
Mohammed Saied Columbus Crew SC Traded to Colorado Rapids early in 2017 season
Jeff Attinella Real Salt Lake Flipped to Portland Timbers
Femi Hollinger-Janzen New England Revolution Traded back to New England Revolution for Bobby Shuttleworth

As you can see, there’s no cookie-cutter approach: no team has kept all five picks, but the rate at which picks are kept or flipped doesn’t seem to be indicative (on its own) of the team’s success: LAFC kept most of its picks and was outstanding in its first year, whereas FC Cincinnati kept most of its picks and was historically bad. Atlanta wheeled and dealed a bit (technically not more than LAFC, but given LAFC’s two players were involved in a single trade, it feels a little different) and was good. Minnesota dealt nearly all its picks and turned out to be pretty bad.

Success in the Expansion Draft – as it relates to begetting team success in the inaugural season – is more about being smart with those picks, not necessarily about whether there’s an objective truth about keeping or trading being better. Nashville SC will likely keep 1-3 of its drafted players and deal the rest for assets.

Mock Drafts and top picks

MLSSoccer.com’s Greg Seltzer has a mock draft for both teams, while The Athletic called Sam Stejskal and and Jeff Reuter into duty as Miami and Nashville GMs, respectively, for their version of same.

Without giving away the whole body of their pieces, the players who went in both those exercises are:

  • Brandon Vazquez, Atlanta United forward
  • Sebastien Ibeagha, New York City FC centerback
  • Abu Danladi, Minnesota United forward
  • Harry Shipp, Seattle Sounders forward

As you all know, I spent much of the weekend putting together a position-by position look at the draft-eligible players. You can see the individual pieces here:

The dataGoalkeeperCenterbackFB/WBMidfieldCAM/WingerForward

Obvious caveats apply: the desirability of a player to keep (or to dangle for a future trade) can be very different than the desirability of a player who has inflated value for a specific trade partner (for example, a South American player can be more desirable than market rate for a team like Miami, that is building around them, or a player could be considered more valuable by his hometown club in a trade).

I am mostly ranking players in a vacuum, so keep in mind that there are little – unknowable, unless you’re in the front office of either of these clubs – factors that aren’t being taken into account. Additional research has resulted in some of the order being potential different from the individual pieces (and also led me to drop Rasmus Schuller, who will play in Norway as he completes his compulsory military service in 2020).

With that said, my big board:

1 CB Sebastien Ibeagha New York City FC
$74,250 Age: 27 1224 mins. NYCFC: 1.11 xGA/96
Ibeagha is No. 1 with a bullet to me, and unfortunately I would expect that Inter Miami feels the same and uses the first overall pick on him (which not only takes him off the board, but all other NYCFC players, as well). He makes a little offensive contribution, but his role on an elite City defense is what is so special about him.
2 GK Tyler Miller LAFC
$77,565 Age: 26 1224 mins. 0.86 GA/xGA
Miller is a very good keeper, but a big part of his value is the combination of compensation (he’s within 8k of senior-minimum salary) and age. LAFC has plenty of good players unprotected, so he may not be the choice from that club despite all that.
3 F Brandon Vazquez Atlanta United
$150,000 Age: 21 685 mins. 0.583 xG+xA per 96
Vazquez is a nice player, but he had a tough time cracking a loaded Atlanta United lineup last year (which you might expect, given the compensation for their forward corps). He was productive when he played, though, and the San Diego native could thrive in a good situation.
4 Wing Josh Perez LAFC
$76,000 Age: 21 513 mins. 0.400 xG+xA per 96
Perez is a sort of risky pick on the wing, but he checks a couple of the important Expansion Draft boxes if you don’t feel like you’re getting a guaranteed starter: young, and not far from the Senior Minimum in wages. Not being able to beat out LAFC’s wingers is not shameful, either.
5 CB Shane O’Neill Orlando City SC
$125,000 Age: 26 918 mins. OCSC: 1.23 xGA/96
O’Neill fits the “find value in the undervalued” mold: relatively young for a CB, played for a team that was bad (but better on defense than anyone really realized), and got under 1000 minutes last year due to an injury (but one that isn’t chronic).
6 RB Zachary Bault-Guillard Montreal Impact
$72,000 Age: 20 944 mins. IMFC: 1.21 xGA/96
Brault-Guillard is on low wages and is young, and played nearly 1000 minutes for a very good defense. He also makes offensive contributions from the RB spot. He may require an international slot for an American team, though (and may not want to get out of Canada).
7 LB Mohamed El-Munir LAFC
$185,000 Age: 27 658 mins. LAFC: 0.98 xGA/96
El-Munir is not the cheapest or youngest, but having played for LAFC is a bonus. He’s down the list from that team, though, so it’s likely one of his teammates gets picked (and therefore he can’t). He does require an international slot, which reduces value.
8 F Abu Danladi Minnesota United
$145,000 Age: 24 805 mins. 0.502 xG+xA per 96
Danladi was a little down the list in terms of production for the Loons. Despite that, he’s on a decent wage bill, which could be dissuading. Young and “blossom with a fresh start” factors go in his favor.
9 Wing Dion Pereira Atlanta United
$56,250 Age: 20 739 mins. 0.196 xG+xA per 96
Pereira wasn’t the most productive wing on the list (in fact, he was one of the least productive, and the sample size is close enough to worrisome for that). But he’s eligible for the reserve roster for four more years, and like others, could blossom in a situation that emphasizes him more. He requires an international slot, though Atlanta has been the most proactive MLS team in pursuing green cards, so he could be close to that.
10 Wing Tsubasa Endoh Toronto FC
$70,250 Age: 26 915 mins. 0.301 xG+xA per 96
A senior minimum player, Endoh was pretty productive from the wing for a good team. However, he does require an international slot, which drives down the value.
11 LB Ben Sweat New York City FC
$200,000 Age: 28 1380 mins. NYCFC: 1.11 xGA/96
Sweat is a solid defender (and was a major contributor for a very good defense), but at his age, the expense of his wages makes him less valuable as a tradable asset.
12 CM Tony Rocha New York City FC
$72,347 Age: 26 972 mins. NYCFC: 1.11 xGA/96
Nashville’s need for central midfielders makes him a less likely choice for them, but he contributed to a great defense – though contributes next-to-nothing offensively – and is close to senior minimum.
13 Wing Adrien Perez LAFC
$56,250 Age: 24 255 mins. 0.626 xG+xA per 96
He’s aging out of reserve roster eligibility soon, and didn’t get a ton of time for a loaded LAFC team last year, but he was hyper-productive when he was on the pitch. Could be worth the risk
14 RB Kyle Smith Orlando City SC
$70,250 Age: 27 1514 mins. OCSC: 1.23 xGA/96
Smith is starting to get up in years for a position that requires plenty of movement up and down the flanks, but he was a first-choice player for an underrated OCSC defense last year, and on a senior minimum salary.
15 CB Brent Kallman Minnesota United
$118,000 Age: 29 1392 mins. MUFC: 1.23 xGA/96
Kallman is another older guy, and a slightly expensive one, but was a contributor to a good defense. I hesitate slightly to consider what he might be like next to Not Ike Opara.
16 Wing Uriel Antuña LA Galaxy
$420,000 Age: 22 2257 mins. 0.474 xG+xA per 96
The most expensive player on this list by a wide margin, Antuña was a first-choice player for a good offense (please do not inquire about the Galaxy defense). Plus, he’s only 22, though requiring an international slot effectively adds even more to that wage bill;.
17 LB Marcos López Lanfranco San Jose Earthquakes
$280,000 Age: 19 1227 mins. 0.127 xG+xA per 96
Likely irrelevant because the Quakes have protection guarantees from both teams. Expensive and international, but also a 1200-minute player at 19, so the future is bright (as is potential for future sell-on).
18 CB Eriq Zavaleta Toronto FC
$275,004 Age: 27 1086 mins. TFC: 1.25 xGA/96
Zavaleta is at a prime age for centerback, and played for a good TFC defense this season. Not on the cheap, but also has the vibe of a tradable asset, too.
19 CM Ken Krolicki Montreal Impact
$59,950 Age: 23 576 mins. IMFC: 1.21 xGA/96
Krolicki is reserve-eligible for another year, and could be a young depth piece to develop behind NSC’s more-experience central midfielders. The Impact were a solid defense last year, though he doesn’t contribute much going forward.
20 CM Gedion Zelalem Sporting Kansas City
$56,250 Age: 22 463 mins. SKC: 1.40 xGA/96
Zelalem has another couple years of eligibility for the reserve roster – and of course the Mike Jacobs connections to SKC could play a role here, too. However, he did only get 463 minutes for a Sporting team that struggled mightily, and he only contributes minimally going forward.
21 Brian Rowe Orlando City SC
$95,000 Age: 31 2636 mins. 0.97 GA/xGA
Rowe is a veteran and not necessarily a cheap one, but he was a strong piece backstopping a very good Orlando City defense. The opportunity to snag a starting-caliber keeper in the expansion draft feels legit.
22 RB Saad Abdul-Salaam Seattle Sounders
$70,250 Age: 28 1188 mins. SEA: 1.40 xGA/96
Although he played mostly for Tacoma Defiance at the end of the year, Abdul-Salaas played nearly 1200 minutes for the senior team this year. The Sounders weren’t great defensively, but he does contribute a bit going forward (0.099 xG+xA/96) and is on a senior minimum deal.
23 Wing Luis Argudo Columbus Crew SC
$57,225 Age: 23 1161 mins. 0.237 xG+xA per 96
Argudo has at least one more year of eligibility for the reserve roster, and got decent time (and OK production) for the Crew as a reasonably young guy. A potential value pick.

There are a few more guys who I considered good pick ideas, but this post is already massive (and they’re largely the third- or fourth-best option from their current roster), so I’ll cut it there.

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