mls Nashville SC

NSC roster decisions: What do they mean?

if u r on the toboggan, u r on the 2021 roster. Photo courtesy Nashville SC/Major League Soccer

Yesterday, Nashville SC announced its roster decisions heading into the 2020-21 offseason. The nitty-gritty is obvious, but what does it mean for the future?

Defensive core locked down

With contract extensions for Walker Zimmerman (mid-season), Dave Romney, and Joe Willis, Nashville’s centerback pairing is locked down through the 2023 season, while one of the most effective keepers in the league is signed through 2022. Nashville will be able to rely on that trio’s experience and effectiveness for the next two seasons, while developing a backup to Willis in that time, with an additional year to worry about really getting Jack Maher and other centerbacks of the future up to speed. All three contracts include a club option for an additional year, too, so the risk of a youngster not being ready yet is mitigated.

If Eric Miller’s contract situation works out, not jus the core but effectively the entire corps will be back! (WORDPLAY)

When you have an elite defense, as Nashville did in the 2020 season, and it’s not a particularly old group (Jalil Anibaba and Dan Lovitz will turn 33 and 30 next season respectively, and are the elder statesmen along with Willis, though keepers tend to skew older), locking down the key pieces is the smart move.

Expected departures

Brayan Beckeles, Ken Tribbett, and Alan Winn were on my “Almost certainly not back regardless of circumstances” list in the protections preview (along with CJ Cochran, whose loan to Nashville officially ended between drafting the story and Nashville publishing its roster decisions). Cameron Lancaster’s departure was already publicized by his new/old club.

The lone semi-surprise is Tanner Dieterich, who I didn’t necessarily expect to play for Nashville next year, but who I did half-expect to get another year with Nashville during which he’d go on loan to a USL side. Instead, it seems likely that a permanent USL move is in his future if he intends to continue his soccer career. Regardless, Nashville’s using SuperDraft picks on Tennessee natives (they also picked Shak Adams, but he signed directly with FC Tucson instead) helps set a foundation for future generations of soccer players in the state, as well. Giving a guy his pro shot… is not something that has happened much in the state’s soccer history.

Nazarit Need Protection?

One mild surprise from yesterday’s announcement was the indication that centerback Miguel Nazarit was already signed through the 2021 season – rather than being a player with a club option after his lone year (in which he did not see the field for the Boys in Gold).

Multi-year foreign signings – Nazarit was picked up on a TAM deal from his club in Colombia – often come with a no-trade clause. Teams are obligated to protect players in an Expansion Draft if they have a no-trade clause, so that could change the calculus of how Nashville can use its 12 protections in Austin FC’s upcoming Expansion Draft. FCAC has not yet verified that Nazarit’s contract does indeed have a no-trade clause, but it’s something to keep an eye on when Nashville SC releases its list of protected players.

26 on the roster

Nashville SC has 26 players signed to its roster at the moment. That number could rise to 27 if Miller and the club are able to come to terms on a contract renegotiation.

As it stands, that does not provide a ton of flexibility in building the 2021 roster! Of course, there’s plenty of time for the big-picture situation to change. There’s a half-day trade window just over a week away, the aforementioned Expansion Draft, free agency, and European winter transfer windows open during the month of January, among other mechanisms that can affect the composition of the roster. The 26 players currently signed are unlikely to all be on the roster come the beginning of the season in early March.

Right now, NSC is largely content to roll with the squad as it was in 2020. Relying on another year of acclimation to the league for three DPs (Jhonder Cádiz, Randall Leal, and Hany Mukhtar) to help the scoring go a little more smoothly, a year with better luck in the health department (Mukhtar and winger/forwards David Accam, Dom Badji, and Abu Danladi were among the players who missed significant time with injury), and a season in which the schedule will not be compressed by a pandemic… all provide hope that not much changing roster-wise is needed to improve results.

With 30 roster spots available, Nashville would still have the opportunity with no departures to add 3-4 new signings. Depending on how high-profile they are (there are budget tricks that Nashville could use to free up a Designated Player slot, even), NSC won’t enter the 2021 season with the same under-the-radar vibe they had for much of 2020.

What most intrigues you about yesterday’s roster decisions? Interact on social media @clubcountryusa.

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