Nashville SC

2020 report card: Aníbal Godoy

Aníbal Godoy photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville spent a pretty penny in allocation money to acquire a central midfielder who was out-of-favor with his previous team. This was a… polarizing roster-building move. How’d it go?

Other editions: No minutes and goneNo minutes and backJimmy MedrandaBrayan BeckelesHandwalla Bwana • Jack MaherDavid AccamAlan WinnMatt LaGrassaEric MillerDerrick JonesJhonder CádizTaylor WashingtonAbu DanladiJalil AnibabaDominique BadjiDaniel RíosTah Brian AnungaAlex MuylHany MukhtarAníbal GodoyAlistair JohnstonRandall LealDax McCartyDan LovitzWalker ZimmermanDave RomneyJoe Willis

The expectations

Nashville spent a lot to get Godoy. The national MLS media were almost universally down on the trade not because of his quality as a player, but because of the price he commanded from the Quakes. Even in the local world, I was pretty wary that – regardless of how good a player he was – it would be close to impossible to justify the price. A good player, unquestionably. But within a “moneyball” philosophy…?

That said, the dollar amount that the front office was willing to part with to get Godoy in the central midfield goes a long way toward revealing how important they thought he was to the build. (And don’t forget, this acquisition came long before NSC acquired Godoy’s central midfield partner, Dax McCarty, at a cost that seemed well below market rate, sort of evening things out here).

Either way, Godoy’s 2020 was all-but guaranteed to be a litmus test of exactly how effective Nashville was using the roster mechanisms available in building the inaugural MLS roster.

The Statistical

21 appearances • 1682 minutes

1 goal, 23 shots (0.98 xG), 8 on-target
0 assists, 9 key passes (0.39 xA)
930/1011 passing (92.0% • 87.5% expected)
12.5% of touches on-field

+0.10 Goals added per 96 minutes versus replacement defensive midfielder

Aníbal Godoy 2020
Dribbling G+Fouling G+Interrupting G+Passing G+Receiving G+Shooting G+
+0.09+0.09+0.12-0.06-0.25-0.07
All data per American Soccer Analysis.

The grade

B-plus.

Largely, Godoy justified what Nashville unloaded to get him (again, when combined with McCarty’s low price). Of course, the mystery amount of first-year GAM – clearly bigger in recent years than may seem obvious – helped justify playing even a slightly larger cost than the market may have otherwise demanded. But the rubber met the road, and Godoy was the type of player Mike Jacobs seemed to think when being willing to give up that much to get him.

Godoy never has been a major offensive producer – his maximum for goal contributions in a single MLS season was three, back in 2016 – and he wasn’t for NSC, either. With just 23 shots and a single (albeit impressive) goal, he also didn’t provide much in the way of key passes, with just nine total on the year. As you look at the Goals Added components, his passing, receiving, and shooting were below-average, as well.

Even his breakout numbers defensively look good-not-great, but taken in-context – the primary line of defense ahead of the backline, for what turned out to be the third-best goals-against in the league (in trying circumstances) – they’re seen through a more positive lens. You’d be hard-pressed to find many pure defensive midfielders in the league that Nashville SC would have rather had. Combined with a similar but more-adventurous central midfield partner in McCarty, and you had a perfect Batman-and-Robin situation in the middle.

As with some others (though a decreasing number of them as we move up in the minutes chart), one of the main problems with Godoy was availability. He had a couple separate minor muscle injuries, and then a two-game stretch where he was unavailable with no stated source of injury given. Playing through a global pandemic, I’m not going to begrudge a guy any of that.

The future

As Godoy gets up there in age, turning 31 back in February, the assumption can’t be that he’ll have his healthiest year yet, given the injury issues that kept him out of nearly half the 2019 season in San Jose, and nagged him occasionally in Nashville last season. That said, a pandemic that’s more under-control means less risk for a pro athlete contracting the novel coronavirus, and it also means the games this season – while more condensed than the average MLS year in an ideal situation – aren’t coming twice a week in a four-month blitz, taxing an aging body.

Just a tiny bit more availability for Godoy would have easily gotten him into A-minus range, and the other part of an imperfect grade is what he can continue to work on. While Godoy was largely sound defensively, when he wasn’t, things went poorly. The first two games against Atlanta United spring to mind as those in which he may not have been individually responsible for any defensive struggles, but didn’t do the “clean up for teammates” action that he became known for at other times. That sort of stuff may be ironed out by the simple matter of having a year’s worth of chemistry with a new team under his belt.

Beyond that, a tiny bit more offensive involvement would also be big for Godoy and Nashville. Even just getting up to his peak contribution with the Quakes (two goals and two assists in a year) would be a nice boost to the NSC output. It’s likely – as we saw in the two USL seasons – that an established defensive core and scheme allow a little more freedom for certain members of it, and the scoring output increases with a broader variety of sources. If Godoy can be one of those, he could have a career year.

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