We’re in a holding pattern in the “will there be more soccer” department, so it’s time to evaluate what we’ve had the chance to see so far. See part one, with team-wide observations, here. Part two is the individual player stock reports.
These players have gone wire-to-wire in both Nashville SC games to date.
Goalkeeper Joe Willis. Stock steady.
Willis came in with a reputation of doing the easy stuff, and perhaps not having the spectacular save in his toolkit. To date, all three goals scored against Nashville SC have been in the category that likely would have required a spectacular save – and he’s barely been bothered other than that. Willis showed improved command of his backline and defenders between the first and second games.
Left back Daniel Lovitz. Stock up.
Perhaps tainted by his negative reputation in USMNT circles, the expectations I had for Lovitz were that he’d be somewhere in the mediocre range. However, he’s shown to be a leader on the backline, and he’s a steadying force on the touchline, with good left-footed set piece service.
Centerback Dave Romney. Stock up.
I feel a bit of validation after stumping for him in the preseason, but even with Confirmation Bias Detectors engaged, it’d be fair to say that Romney has been as good as can be asked for from a centerback.
Centerback Walker Zimmerman. Stock very slightly down.
If expectations for a USMNT captain and MLS Best XI choice weren’t naturally very high, Zimmerman wouldn’t be stock down. After all, he’s led the backline and also scored the only goal in club history to date. However, he’s taken responsibility for one of the three goals-against for Nashville SC (probably falling on his sword a little more than necessary), and I think escaped the deserved criticism for another. His athleticism and set-piece threat have lived up to expectations, while his ability to go forward into the attack has exceeded them (though at times led to scary moments in the back, as well).
Right back Eric Miller. Stock down.
Miller has been a bit of an MLS journeyman, so expecting him to step into what was expected to be a very good defense and be a solid starter may have been unfair. Still, he’s been a source of some sketchiness at the back (including the first goal allowed against Atlanta United), and hasn’t provided much going forward, either.
Midfielder Anibal Godoy. Stock steady.
Like others on the team, Godoy was lacking in some ways in Game One but corrected those in a major way in the second game. In his case, it was being lost in space defensively against Atlanta. That cleared up against Portland, while his passing and vision on offense have been extremely smooth in both games.
Midfielder Dax McCarty. Stock very slightly down.
McCarty is known for being very tidy on the ball, and that wasn’t the case against Atlanta United. He cleaned it up somewhat in the Portland game, but there’s still a little bit of development to get back to the expectations. He’s still active in the midfield (and willing to get forward in the attack), but his overall motor is showing just a few signs of the strain of being 30-plus in that position. He has shown the ability to slot into multiple gaps in the defensive formation – as mentioned in yesterday’s post – which is an interesting addition to his skillset.
Attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar. Stock down.
Mukhtar hasn’t shouted “only DP on the team” through two games, but the ways in which he’s struggled are ones that could be overcome in short order. He’s been confident in his passing and more willing to slot into the defense than many expected (at least, those who didn’t watch an entire Brøndby II game in which he played exclusively as a holding/defensive mid). However, he’s been getting used to the speed and – more visibly – physicality of the game in MLS. Adding a bit more upper-body strength and the knowledge that he’s not going to get whistles by falling down when he feels contact should allow him to take his game to another level when MLS resumes.
Started and subbed
These players have started both games (Nashville ran out the same starting lineup in both, which kept things simple), but been subbed out in at least one of them.
Left wing Randall Leal Subbed out against Atlanta United. Stock down.
Like Mukhtar, Leal’s performances to date haven’t lived up to the preseason hype for him. He’s been fast and technical on the wing, but hasn’t been precise connecting with his teammates (or executing defensive assignments) just yet. If he can add some end product and a bit of chemistry with the players around him, he can bounce back.
Right wing David Accam Subbed out of both games. Stock very slightly down.
Accam was injured in preseason, so actually seeing him on the field at this point has been encouraging. However, he’s been able to perform the technical aspects that have been displayed over the course of the career, but like many of his teammates, that final piece has just not been there.
Striker Dominique Badji Subbed out of both games. Stock down.
Badji hasn’t looked bad on a play-to-play basis, but he’s had trouble getting involved, and hasn’t been the best fit for what the team needs. Some of that is out of his control: he’s suited to a counter-attack system, rather than one in which the opposition is bunkered down (with a lead, as has been the case in both games). His movement in traffic and physical battles against centerbacks have… not gone well. He hasn’t had much opportunity to show off his speed. He needs to have more breadth to his game to continue being a major contributor.
These players have not yet started a match, but have substitute appearances in one or both of the first two games.
Forward/winger Abu Danladi 38 minutes across two games. Stock steady.
Danladi came out of the Portland game with injury, so pending an update on his health status, the future is unknown (of course, the longer the pandemic break lasts, the more time he has to recover – a slight silver lining). He’s looked as-expected in his appearances – fast on the wing, good at linking up, but ultimately unproductive.
Striker Daniel Ríos 33 minutes across two games. Stock up.
Ríos’s stock increase may have more to do with Badji’s being down than anything specific Ríos has done, but he appears to be a better fit for what the team has needed in the first two games: physical, slippery to find space in the box, and willing to pull the trigger on a shot with just a sliver of space. If he’s 90-minute healthy by the time play resumes, it would not surprise to see him get a start.
Right wing Alan Winn 31 minutes against Atlanta United. Stock up.
Winn got significant playing time against Atlanta… then didn’t even make the trip to Portland. However, for a guy moving up from the USL level, his time against Atlanta United showed that his speed and technical skills can still succeed at a higher level. The problem? There’s still work to do on his end product.
Left wing Jimmy Medranda. 13 minutes against Portland Timbers. Stock up.
Medranda’s potential is super-high, and his skill is well-known in MLS circles. The problem has been a lengthy injury history – and I’ll be the first to admit near-shock at seeing him healthy enough to play just two games into the season. If he can stay on the field, it’ll be an extremely pleasant surprise and major boost for the team.
Yet to see the field
The following players are looking for their debuts with Nashville SC’s MLS team:
- Defender Jalil Anibaba
- Midfielder Tah Brian Anunga
- Right back Brayan Beckeles
- Midfielder Tanner Dieterich
- Midfielder Luke Haakenson – season loan to Charlotte Independence (USL)
- Midfielder Alistair Johnston
- Midfielder Derrick Jones
- Midfielder Matt LaGrassa
- Forward Cameron Lancaster – season loan to Louisville City (USL)
- Defender Jack Maher – season loan (w/ recall right) to Charlotte Independence (USL)
- Defender Miguel Nazarit
- Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco
- Defender Ken Tribbett
- Defender Taylor Washington
- Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas
Photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country