Nashville SC’s starting keeper will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Veteran Joe Willis has signed a contract extension to remain with the Boys in Gold.
UPDATE: The extension runs through the 2022 season, with a club option for the 2023 season.
The 32-year old played every minute for Nashville SC this year, allowing 24 goals and making 78 saves on 102 shots faced across the regular season and playoffs. He was the third-most efficient goalkeeper with over 1,000 minutes played this season, allowing only 82% of expected goals (in a virtual tie with No. 2 Sean Johnson of NYCFC, while both were a comfortable distance behind New England’s Matt Turner at 75%). He was picked up by Nashville in an Expansion Draft-day trade with Houston Dynamo, in exchange for expansion pick Zarek Valentin.
Willis played five years in Houston, and preceded that with three seasons spent with DC United (he was also loaned to the Richmond Kickers during his time with DC). The Denver University graduate is a native of St. Louis, which I am going to bestow with the nickname “Hotbed of the Heartlands.” (Copyright 2020 for club and/or country).
Nashville SC traded backup goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas to Minnesota United mid-season, but boasts 2020 SuperDraft pick Elliot Panicco and US Youth International Brady Scott – who was loaned to Sacramento Republic during the regular season – in the goalkeeping room as well. NSC signed former Nashville USL player CJ Cochran (now with OKC Energy of USL) to a short-term loan to close out the season. Panicco is seen as Nashville’s keeper of the future, but thanks to the unprecedented natured of the 2020 season (no US Open Cup, season reduced to 23 games), was unable to develop with game reps this Summer.
Along with US National Team defender Walker Zimmerman, who signed a mid-season extension, Willis helps to establish continuity for Nashville SC’s already-elite defense for years to come.
Joe Willis photo courtesy Major League Soccer