As we await schedule news on the MLS is Back tournament – we’re expecting a July 9 opener against Philly for the Boys in Gold, but nothing official yet – let’s run through some links of interest.
Leal poised to break out? Randall Leal makes MLSSoccer.com’s list of 10 players who are poised for a breakout at the Orlando tournament.
The Costa Rica left winger repeatedly worked his way into dangerous spots over Nashville SC’s first two games, chalking up six successful dribbles (eight if you count the two final-third free kicks he won) and seven shot attempts. We already know that Leal has the skills to put foes on their heels, and now he’ll have extra time to foster chemistry with his new teammates.
Costa Rican press with a story on the story. I guess I’m putting together a story on the story on the story. #Lealception
Obviously we haven’t seen the best of Leal yet – you can see many examples of what he does well here – and he’s a good shout for one of those breakout players. Three inches to the right on one shot, and not only would Leal have already earned that “breakout player” mantle, but NSC would almost certainly have its first point in the table.
Coincidentally, there’s a breakdown of Leal new to the Youtubes from his time at Saprissa. Actually, it’s more a highlight reel with some telestrations popping up than a breakdown, but a good look at NSC’s star winger nonetheless:
It may not happen in Orlando, but he’ll be breaking out at some point this season, I have no doubt.
Black Players Coalition. Racial and social justice are less trendy in the soccer world today than they were a couple weeks ago, but it’s an important topic to keep pushing to the top. The Black Players Coalition of MLS is certain to help keep these issues at the forefront:
Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba is on the board of the organization. The state in which he plays… has a number of politicians who refuse to remove a bust of the first Grand Wizard of the KKK in their statehouse, by the way.
The homie Drake Hills speaking with The Kickaround on the topics of black representation in soccer (both on the pitch and in the press boxes).
I mentioned this in the previous links post, but let’s re-up: Gideon’s Army is an important organization when it comes to ending cycles of systemic racism. I would encourage support for them. It’s easy to talk about caring. It’s more difficult to actually take action to show you do.
Maxi Romero. MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert gets some details on Nashville SC’s pursuit of Argentine striker Maxi Romero:
A source adds that Nashville do not expect to make any signings before the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando next month and that the club may even wait until winter to sign a DP forward, when better deals might be available.
That’s been the expectation (for a new signing in general and for Romero in particular) for some time. The likelihood of that timeline has been part of my hesitance in reporting. More rumors emerge than will ever get to serious stages, much less come to fruition.
Keeping reporting to the emergent – and likely to come off – situations helps avoid a “boy who cried wolf” deal. Properly contextualizing the rumors has been and will remain a priority. I’ll have more if and when the pursuit becomes closer to reality.
Qué hacen los jugadores? Some of it is dated (ah, the youthful innocence of thinking coronavirus would be contained in six weeks), but plenty of content on what Nashville SC players have done during the coronavirus pandemic.
A video interview with Eric Miller talking a lot about life during quarantine. If Spanish is more your speed, lo mismo with Leal (there’s also some interesting stuff about 2/3 of the way through about why he signed with Nashville over a few Liga MX options).
A print interview with rookie Alistair Johnston on the topic:
The former Vaughan Azzurri product admitted that it was disappointing to not get his first professional game under his belt but he continues to remain positive.
“This is not exactly how I pictured my rookie season but at the same time I need to stay positive and know that my time is going to come.”
One positive thing that Johnston can take from this situation is healing some nagging injuries.
Cannot wait until we’re no longer trying to figure out ways to keep talking about soccer while none is happening.
Etc.: One former and one (technically) current Nashville SC striker find themselves among the best five in the USL. … A lot of folks (understandably) celebrating the 10th anniversary of Landon Donovan’s Algeria goal this week. NSC defender Brayan Beckeles played a role in a Honduras goal with a similar golden aura around the memory.
Randall Leal (left) and Hany Mukhtar photo courtesy Nashville SC.