If Nashville SC finishes in seventh or eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Boys in Gold will almost certainly participate in MLS’s play-in matches without two of their top players. Randall Leal (Costa Rica) and Aníbal Godoy (Panama) will participate in their national teams’ international friendlies during the Nov. 11-19 FIFA window. Leal’s call-up was not previously publicized by Costa Rica’s federation, whereas Godoy’s was revealed in October.
Upon their return, they will be subject to Major League Soccer’s 10-day quarantine period upon their return. Even if the length of that quarantine is considered flexible on account of the circumstances, since it is a league – not governmental – mandate, FIFA does not consider it grounds for denying call-ups. Leal’s Costa Rica plays Qatar in Hartberg, Austria Nov. 13, and the Basque Country(!) – a non-FIFA side – in Eibar, Spain Nov. 16. Godoy’s Panama plays Japan in Düsseldorf, Germany Nov. 13 and the United States* in Weiner Neustadt, Austria Nov. 16.
* LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget is the only domestically-based player called up for the USMNT after his team was eliminated from playoff contention this week. He is a replacement for Werder Bremen striker Josh Sargent, whose club team requested he stay with them in Germany.
Their status will even be in question for the Nov. 24 conference quarterfinals, pending their travel arrangements, quarantine passing without a hitch, and ability to re-integrate into training sessions smoothly enough to take the pitch in the event that NSC either finishes sixth in the East or wins a first-round game. The best-case scenario from a Nashville perspective is that each is a key player for the first game of the window, then returned to NSC prior to the second, thus letting the above-listed processes finish just in time for a Nov. 24 contest.
Nashville has been without each of them at various times this year due to minor injury or coach’s decision – of 2137 available minutes, Leal has played 1613 and Godoy 1551. Head coach Gary Smith has played former USL standouts Tah Brian Anunga and/or Matt LaGrassa next to captain Dax McCarty in Godoy’s absence. Both play together with Godoy in McCarty’s absence Wednesday evening in a three-man central midfield, as well.
Smith’s options to replace Leal at winger or second striker are more plentiful, particularly if Hany Mukhtar and Abu Danladi are healthy – though Mukhtar has been limited in recent weeks as he recovers from a hamstring injury and Danladi missed Wednesday’s game himself. NSC’s most recent signing, former Seattle Sounder Handwalla Bwana, made his debut Wednesday, while fellow mid-year trade Alex Muyl (who arrived from New York Red Bulls early in the Summer) has been a mainstay in the lineup since his arrival. Forward/wingers David Accam and Dominique Badji have been out of the lineup long-term with injury. Former USL players Taylor Washington and Alan Winn have played sparingly at wing (while Washington has also contributed as a fullback).
Life has not been easy for Nashville SC in its MLS expansion season, but the team has been nothing if not resilient in the face of that adversity.
Randall Leal photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country