mls Nashville SC

Intriguing options: Re-entry draft and free agency 2020

Nashville SC’s 2019 Re-entry pick, Eric Miller. Photo courtesy Major League Soccer

Tonight, Austin FC will participate in the 2020 MLS Expansion Draft. Will Claudio Reyna select a player from Nashville SC? If the Boys in Gold are spared, the key pieces of a strong 2020 roster return intact.

NSC will be looking to continue building toward the 2021 season, though. With 3-4 roster slots open at this point, there’s limited space to continue improving on the roster. The 2020 re-entry process begins Thursday, while free agency opens tomorrow at 1 p.m. (along with the waiver draft, but none of the nine options there look particularly enticing – no, I’m not an Andrew Carleton believer anymore). Here is the full list of players available with their relevant stats:

Field playersGoalkeepers

And here are some players I find intriguing from a Nashville SC perspective (and for other teams as well, but ya know)…

Re-entry

Minnesota United centerback José Aja. The top Goals Added CB available in re-entry. His salary is unknown because he just joined the league this year after spending a season in Chile – but he made $240k during his last MLS season. He does not require an international slot after acquiring a green card during his previous MLS stint (Orlando City and Vancouver 2016-18).

Minnesota United winger Raheem Edwards. Another lefty, a 25-year-old Canadian (Minnesota United has him on an international slot, though that may be an inaccuracy on the MLS roster pages, since he’s been a multi-year MLS guy even though most of that has been in Canada, I believe the rules changed entering 2020 that those don’t count). Not the most productive dribbler, but solid in other aspects per G+. Also on a senior minimum contract, which is good.

FC Cincinnati fullback Andrew Gutman. Nashville almost landed Gutman as a USL club before Homegrown rules (with no way for a non-MLS side to acquire his rights from Chicago for a loan) prevented Scotland’s Celtic from sending him to Music City. He is a relatively cheap player ($100k) and his struggles on the field may be largely attributable to being stuck with two of the worst teams in MLS history. A left back with a pre-existing relationship with Mike Jacobs.

New York City FC winger Gary MacKay-Steven. A left-footed winger – Nashville does not have one of those – who’s relatively cheap (made under $300k in 2019). At 30, he’s not a spring chicken, and he also requires an international slot, being a Scot. Solid xG+xA numbers and good G+. Can empathize with Alex Muyl about being kicked in the balls during the playoffs.

Houston Dynamo central midfielder Tomás Martinez. He’s only 25 years old at a position where Nashville SC could use young talent to complement Tahj Brian Anunga in the future as Aníbal Godoy and Dax McCarty pass the torch. He made a lot of money – nearly a half-mill last year (and in Phase One, his option must be exercised), but does not require an international slot after the Argentine picked up a green card with Houston.

Portland Timbers striker Felipe Mora. The highest-regarded available striker in terms of both xG+xA and G+. He’s an international, but not a Designated Player (meaning the budget hit is fairly nice for a proven creator/finisher). Only 27 so he has several years left.

Los Angeles Galaxy winger Cristian Pavón. LOL just kidding he’s going back to Mexico to make more money. It’s insane how productive he was while the Galaxy accomplished squat this year.

Sporting Kansas City CB Winston Reid. He was a very good G+ centerback this year, and had surprising good health (I say this about a guy who earned under 1/2 of available minutes at a position that produces more ironmen than anything outside of keeper – that’s how low the expectations were). He’s also on loan from West Ham, so the salary hit may not be as extreme if he’s looking to stay in MLS.

New York Red Bulls fullback Patrick Seagrist. A 22-year old left back from a system that has translated very well to NSC once already (Alex Muyl joined mid-season). On a senior-minimum salary, at a position that NSC probably needs a backup to Dan Lovitz and one who can develop for the future. Goals Added really liked him, as well.

Free Agency

Columbus Crew winger Ema Boateng. Goals Added like Boateng, and he produced at a pretty high per-minute level in terms of expected goals and assists. At under $200k and only 26 years old, there’s upside. He also fits the NSC-DNA criterion of trying to fit guys together who have common life experiences, as a Ghanaian joining a roster that includes David Accam, Abu Danladi (also a high school rival in the Santa Barbara area), and Derrick Jones. Another lefty winger at a value price, bringing MLS Champion pedigree… lots to like here.

New England Revolution central midfielder/winger Diego Fagundez. A 25-year old with 10 years of MLS experience(!), Fagundez has spent the past few seasons in a similar system under Bruce Arena to that Nashville runs with Gary Smith. A Uruguayan who has lived nearly his entire life in the US, he checks a few different boxes before getting into good G+ numbers and a relatively cheap salary (barely over $200k in 2019). Could help form a central midfield pairing with Tah Brian Anunga for many years.

Minnesota United central midfielder Marlon Hairston. At 26 and on a $155k budget hit, he’s a cheap and reasonably young option at a position where NSC can begin to look fr the next generation to join Tah Brian Anunga. As an added bonus in my eyes, he’s a native of the South (Jackson, Miss.), and helps bring a little hometown-ish feeling.

Sporting KC striker Erik Hurtado. Perhaps Hurtado is looking for minutes – something he didn’t get in SKC last year, but NSC probably doesn’t provide many more of – but a guy on a cheap budget, who’s only 30 (not young, but also capable of a sub role) who the advanced numbers liked more than his number of minutes may have justified, this would be a moneyballin’ move.

New England Revolution central midfielder Tommy McNamara. He’s not a perfect fit, given that he’s only a year younger (a year and four days, specifically) than Aníbal Godoy, but he’s a steady veteran CM who could fill in depth-wise given the rate at which Godoy and Dax McCarty needed a bit of rest last year, and help continue to bring Tah Brian Anunga along. He’s reasonably cheap on around $165k – and likely due for a slight decrease as he gets up in age.

Toronto FC fullback Justin Morrow. Morrow was one of the most effective among the available left backs in Goals Added and expected assists – which means getting up that left flank, something NSC wants to complement in-cutting wingers on the left. Morrow is going to turn 34, so he’s far from the LB of the future, but he may be due for a pay cut after TFC didn’t renegotiate a contract with him, and the positives of having the Director of Black Players for Change on the roster are obvious.

San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski. Because it’s my blog. (In reality (by which I mean fairy tale land), NSC and Wondo would be pretty good fits for each other – Nashville can use a pure scorer who doesn’t demand a ton of minutes, while Wondo wants a club that’s got ambition and NSC is exactly that minus a player with Wondo’s specific skillset). Would I have a heart attack if this happened? Yes, but I would die happy.

Los Angeles FC striker Bradley Wright-Phillips. Same as Wondo, but with less of my undying love devoted to him.

Peruse the ol’ charty-charts in the header and let me know who you think would be a good fit.

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