As first reported by MLS Multiplex’s Kristian Dyer last night, Nashville SC has traded for another defender. From club release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April. 10, 2021) – Nashville Soccer Club announced today the acquisition of Defender Dylan Nealis from Inter Miami CF in exchange for $175,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and an additional $50,000, if Nealis meets certain performance-based metrics. Nealis is signed for the 2021 season with options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
“Dylan is an outstanding defender who can contribute on both sides of the ball and has the potential to fit into our group really well,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “He has a lot of the positive attributes we look for in players and will be a welcome addition.”
Nealis, who was originally selected with the third-overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas, from Georgetown University, is set to join a historic Nashville SC defense that posted a goal against average of 0.956 goals per game in 2020, the best of any expansion club in league history.
The 22 year-old’s presence in Miami’s starting XI began early in the season as he logged 19 matches and 1,104 minutes. With the addition of the defender, Nashville SC now has two members of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft Class to log over 1,000 minutes in their rookie seasons with Canadian international Alistair Johnston registering 1,366 minutes of action last year.
At the collegiate level, Nealis made a massive impact captaining the Hoyas for two seasons and leading the squad to the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s College Cup title. The defender was named a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist for the 2019 season, won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and was named to the All-Big East First Team and the United Soccer Coaches All-America First Team. Overall, he appeared in 78 games for Georgetown registering seven goals and 14 assists.Nashville SC release
Nealis checks a lot of boxes that Nashville SC tends to like: a guy they liked out of college (depending on how the 2020 SuperDraft had played out, there may have been a chance they’d traded up to land him – instead he went third overall, immediately after NSC’s pick of Jack Maher), who has a family history of success in the league (brother Sean has a couple years bouncing between Red Bulls and Red Bulls II), and perhaps most importantly, one who comes on the relative cheap given the level of performance expected.
That’s a fairly average defender – not half-bad for a rookie. Given that Nashville’s defensive scheme and coaching seem to be superior to Inter Miami’s, you could pretty easily see him taking strides in his second year.
The flipside of that is where he fits in: Alistair Johnston is an all-but lock starter at RB, and while he’ll likely be missing time for the Gold Cup and 2022 World Cup qualifying, NSC also signed Eric Miller to an extension. Adding a guy like Nealis who was a regular starter for Miami to be a backup to Johnston – and possibly even just third on the depth chart – would be quite the coup. Certainly NSC had that type of depth last year, with Brayan Beckeles complementing Johnston and Miller… but Nashville also didn’t expect Johnston to have the rookie year he did.
At worst, there’s more competition for the position. At best, he and Johnston go head-to-head to battle for minutes while Miller provides depth (and he can also provide that depth at a CB position, too). It’ll be interesting to watch the depth chart play out over the first couple weeks of the season.