Nashville SC’s roster is mostly filled out for the 2020 season, give-or-take some new signings, draftees not signed, players loaned to USL teams, or other minor roster changes. So, how do all the players fit on the field?
Here’s my attempt to graphically represent how the players fit onto the field. The size and colors of the dots represent their main positions – on a scale from purple to orange that I arbitrarily chose because it’s a little easier to interpret than some of the other options I tried first. The bigger and closer to bright orange, the more primary that position is.
Some players have many alternate positions, others are essentially pigeonholed into one or two spots. The keepers aren’t included because they’re all one-position players, and that’s not particularly interesting. All images have Nashville attacking right-to-left.
Nashville SC currently has five players in the fold whose primary position is striker.
Adams, an unsigned draftee, was a center forward for Florida Gulf Coast. However, his technical and shooting ability might not be enough to make up for a 5-7 frame at the professional level. Fortunately, his speed and workrate could allow him to get up and down the wings.
Alternatively… he may have a hard time earning his roster slot, even with a strong preseason. Showing some versatility could allow him to have a chance.
Badji began his career as a striker by trade, but was shifted to a left wing role by FC Dallas over the past year and a half. His skillset (right-place, right-time running into the box) seems to be more suited for the former, and a Nashville SC team that is looking for a true top-line finisher at striker should at least give him the chance to prove himself at that spot before continuing the winger experiment.
Danladi was Minnesota United’s first draft pick, and a key player for MNUFC as a rookie, but the emergence of others meant he was expendable for the Loons. He’s a smaller (5-10, 170) center forward, but his speed could allow him to contribute on the flanks if he doesn’t win the striker gig.
Lancaster is a dude who goes out and gets goals. One of the best pure finishers on Nashville’s team, there may be a role for him. On the other hand, a team that can’t count on his health may not be able to justify taking up a roster slot (and for the time being, an international slot). Especially given that he’s more limited in terms of other roles – without the pace to be a pure winger, or the creativity to be a true No. 10 (though he can be a cleanup second striker, which is why I have him with a little spot there), he’ll have to be healthy and fit in preseason.
Ríos is similar to Lancaster in that he’s almost exclusively a striker. However, he’s got a liiiiittle bit more pace to play multiple positions, and has shown (and it’s totally possible the only reason Lancaster hasn’t is because he’s been too injured) technical skill in addition to shooting that could allow him to be a little more versatile.
Primarily wing/attacking midfield
The graphic quite clearly shows that I’m high on Accam’s versatility, though his primary asset – speed down the flanks, and the ability to get in behind the defense – places him at either win position first and foremost. He’s primarily been a left winger in his career, and that’s reflected here, though he has some time on the right with Chicago Fire, and given the makeup of the rest of the roster, I’d anticipate he begins over there.
Hany Mukhtar has (perhaps rightfully – and certainly by me) been pegged as the key to Nashville SC’s first MLS campaign. I think there’s an argument to be made that Leal is nearly as important. If he can be a top-10 wing in overall production this season – no easy task, to be fair – Nashville is in good shape.
He’s also a good enough finisher to play center forward, technical and incisive enough to be a central creator, and defensively-sound enough that he’s played as much time for Costa Rica at a No. 8 as he has at wing. He’s flexible and talented, which, to me, is “good.”
Mukhtar’s importance as the primary creator is massive. Most of the wing options are talented, but – as I’ve noted Accam is above – “get in behind” types require good service to get onto the ball deep in opposing territory. Mukhtar has a whole range of skills, playing as a 6/8 for Brøndby IF at times, enough finishing to be an occasional center forward, and maaaaaybe enough pace/motor to hack it as a winger.
However, as the only guy to date who’s a pure No. 10, that’s where he’ll see the lion’s share of his minutes.
Winn, like Accam, is a winger who thrives on either getting service from the midfield to get in behind and earn one-v-ones with opposing defenders, or playing one-twos with the fullback on his side to break into space.
He does have a bit of technical ability to play in the center of the pitch (he did at University of North Carolina, for example), and is a young enough guy that more experience and strength could see him excel there in the long run, too. For now, thew wing speed is where it’s at.
Primarily central midfield
Dieterich was a box-to-box midfielder in college, but his skillset probably projects best to play a little deeper on the pitch as a professional. He’s defensively sound, strong, and probably good enough to contribute a bit on the edge as a right back (albeit may not have to given NSC’s depth) or winger. However, he’s likely a depth piece for now.
Godoy is the MLS midfield destroyer you’d create in a lab. Except you might make the experimental version a little healthier. He’s got incredible motor, good enough range to be box-to-box and sideline-to-sideline, and an ability to make opponents feel (and succumb to) his tackles without fouling much. He’s a little more limited offensively, but that’s not what NSC needs out of him anyway.
Haakenson is an interesting case, though like Adams, he’s essentially trying to make the team with his preseason work. A fairly versatile guy, Haakenson has the strength to hack it in the middle of the field, but will probably have to get more used to using his technical ability, rather than athleticism, to succeed if he’s going to do it at the MLS level.
After his incredible run against Charleston Battery in the USL Playoffs, maybe we aren’t giving Jones enough credit on offense, but at the MLS level, his size and lack of top-end athleticism will probably see even that technical ability used to advance the ball from a box-to-box or holding midfield role at the next level. That lack of pure speed probably keeps him in the center of the pitch rather than having the flexibility to play wide, as well.
There are two caveats here: he’s still a young guy and could continue to develop athletically, and it’s possible that he was still rusty from his ankle injury late in 2019 and has more athleticism when fully fit.
LaGrassa played occasionally as a wide midfielder for Nashville SC as a USL team, but like Jones, a lack of top-end speed probably keeps him in the center of the pitch in Major League Soccer. His technical ability has best shown in tight spaces, and he has the vision to be a creator, but a holding mid spot is what he’s done best, and should continue to do going forward.
In a lot of ways, McCarty is a similar player to LaGrassa, except a version of same that had a higher ceiling early in his career (and probably continues to have a higher ceiling to this day). He’s your stay-at-home central midfielder defensively, though on offense he really relishes the opportunity to make that late run into the box to shoot or feed.
Anibaba is a centerback by trade, but has the ability to contribute as a fullback (as he did for New England at times) as well. He could be a bigger Tribbett-style central midfielder as well, though given NSC’s depth at that position (see above), wouldn’t likely be needed there.
Though he’s 34, Beckeles still has the motor to get up and down the pitch as a fullback, and the lateral mobility to contribute a bit in that same central midfield role, too. His 6-1 frame and leaping/heading ability could make him an athletic centerback option in spurts, as well.
Johnston is a guy who the more college-soccer-watching fans had a passing awareness of when Nashville SC drafted him, but I’ve come to believe there’s a really good chance he’s a sleeper in the class and a longtime pro. His speed and technical ability make him really versatile, though the best thing for his long-term future is probably to stick at right back and learn from his teammates and master that position.
Lovitz has played a number of roles in his MLS career along the left side of the pitch. He’s a left back first and foremost, but has played it in ways that are transferrable to the CB position (particularly in a three-back with a massive header-winning guy in the middle) or even left wing.
He also has the technical ability to play as a central defensive midfield (he’s tucked in a bit from that spot, including with the USMNT), but as noted in multiple above sections, it’d be a surprise if his services were needed there.
Like other CBs, he can play that stay-at-home CDM role, but shouldn’t be asked to for Nashville (he also has less change-of-direction than some of the other options here, so he’d be less likely to do so). He played mostly on the left for Indiana even though he’s right-foot dominant, and his ability to bang it up the sideline with that left foot even though it’s theoretically the weaker one is impressive.
Medranda is one of the more versatile guys on the entire team. When healthy, he has MLS All-Star potential… the problem is that he just wasn’t healthy for Sporting Kansas City very often in the past couple years.
A left-footed player with the athleticism and defensive ability to play either left back or left wing (or in a less offensively-oriented left mid role in a 4-4-2 philosophy), he’s good enough in tight areas to be a ball-distributing central midfielder – at times, potentially even from the No. 10 role – as well.
Miller is a true right back, sort of the prototypical skillset (though perhaps not on a high enough level that he’ll ever be a star at it). He’s big and physical enough to play closer to the center of the pitch at CB or CDM, and possibly athletic enough to make spot contributions at wing,.
Nazarit may take some time to adjust to a totally different type of play in MLS than he was experiencing as a part-time player for a smaller team in Colombia. However, his potential is great as an athletic centerback, and I’ve even given the benefit of the doubt a bit here to say he might have the wheels to slide out right back in a pinch.
Romney is a lefty and Gary Smith loves to have left-footed defenders play on the left, though he’s skilled enough with both feet that he can play either side. He’s also got plenty of experience playing as a left back for LA Galaxy, and while that isn’t his long-term future, he can fill in there, too. The combination of enough athleticism and skill to play out there and the physical nature to play CB puts him in that “CDM in a pinch” category that should be so unnecessary for NSC.
It will shock you to know that I have Tribbett down for what I’ve called the “Tribbett role” above as a central defensive midfielder. However, he’s a left-footed centerback who should play primarily the LCB position, though he’s two-footed enough to also play on the right.
Washington doesn’t have a massive breadth of positions in his tool set, but he potentially brings something extremely intriguing to those that he does have. Primarily a left back, he’s going to be one of the fastest players on the team (along with Accam and Winn, maybe Johnston once we get a view of him against pros, and possibly Badji though his type of speed is more building up a head of steam than being immediately shot out of a cannon). That opens up either wing position for different purposes.
He’s also defensively sound and physical enough to play a bit as a left centerback, particularly in odd-backline formations.
As mentioned above, not exactly compelling graphics. All three get the ol’ [114, 40] treatment.