Nashville SC, like all Major League Soccer teams, has seen virtually all of its day-to-day activity grind to a halt. The novel coronavirus and its resulting disease, COVID-19, have the Boys in Gold transformed into the Boys in Own Homes Apart from Each Other for the time being. While club CEO Ian Ayre continues to work the phones – and the video conferences – and the players continue their conditioning programs, there’s not a lot that can happen when it comes to members of the team working together to improve the product when play returns.
For Nashville SC, though, that may carry a silver lining: a team that’s still in its infancy can make incremental improvements even without being on the pitch together.
“I’m a big optimist, and I always think you should take the positives from anything negative,” Ayre said. “I mean listen, our players, although they’re not together, they’re communicating regularly, and they’d all literally just walked in the door six weeks or so earlier. I think we’ve got more time for them to get to know each other – albeit virtually at the moment. I think that, as you say, we’ve got time to see how the team performed in two games and in training during that period.”
Those portions of potential improvement that can only be intangible at this point. There’s no telling whether players getting to know each other over FaceTime or Zoom will pay off in understanding on the pitch. The players can only get comfortable with each other’s tendencies on the field of play… by being on the field of play. We’re a long way from that returning.
There are more concrete ways in which Nashville SC’s 2020 fortunes can be improved during an enforced break in the schedule, though. Ayre made it very clear that his technical staff continues to scour the globe for additional talent on the roster.
“We always made a key point that we haven’t finished our overall recruitment, so that’s still going on,” he explained. “I know [General Manager] Mike Jacobs and his team are keeping Gary [SMith, head coach] very involved in looking at video and other stuff for players that we might consider bringing in further down the track.
“There is an opportunity for us in recruitment terms that, by the time we start playing soccer again, maybe there’s other players in our roster as well, and maybe we’ve had an opportunity to do things that we wouldn’t have been able to do immediately or didn’t choose to do. So lots of different moving pieces, and I think that – it will depend on the outcome – but I think there’s definitely some positives that we can draw from the ability to have a little bit longer before we start again.”
The improvement of any individual soccer team can only be the faintest of silver linings in a global pandemic that has claimed over 130,000 lives worldwide – and by the time this post is published, will likely eclipse the 30,000 mark in the United States alone*. However, it’s a silver lining nonetheless for Nashville SC fans.
While Ayre remains mum on potential transfer targets, some of the considerations going into Nashville SC’s overall recruitment process – including deep ruminations on the aligning of Transfer Windows, and whether those windows will be adjusted around the world – may give some indication as to what possibilities are on the table. That seems to include targets plying their trade in large European Leagues during the 2019-20 season across the pond.
“We’re fast approaching the opening of windows in other markets, and what would normally be the end of a league in other times: leagues are coming to an end in Europe, there’s every chance those leagues are still going to be playing [longer than expected due to the virus],” he said. “So it’s going to be interesting, because players will be out of contract in some cases when leagues are maybe restarting in other countries, so I think there’s a whole minefield of work to get through, and an unenviable task for somebody, whether it’s MLS, individual leagues, UEFA, Concacaf, FIFA, all of the above at some point probably weigh in.”
When Nashville SC returns to the field, it’s likely that simple familiarity between the players will yield improved results after an 0-2 start. If there’s additional firepower added to the roster, the team may just be ready to take an even bigger step forward.
* STAY INSIDE. WASH YOUR HANDS.