Nick Hinds photo courtesy Nashville SC/MLS
As noted in this week’s Not Gold, we have official answers to the loan question.
A keeper crunch for the Boys in Gold finally has its answer. With Joe Willis returning after a career year, second-year player Elliot Panicco poised to be the keeper of the future, Bryan Meredith recently signed from free agency, and Tor Saunders set to join Nashville after completing his spring season with Coastal Carolina, there had to be an odd man out, at least temporarily.
Panicco will go on a season-long loan to Austin Bold of USL Championship, giving him experience while Willis retains his lock on the starting position and Meredith slots in behind him on the depth chart. Defender Nick Hinds will be joining him. From Club release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 6, 2021) – Nashville Soccer Cub announced today it has loaned Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco and Defender Nick Hinds to Austin Bold FC of the USL Championship for the 2021 season. Nashville SC has the ability to terminate the loan agreement at any point throughout the season.
Nashville SC selected Panicco with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, presented by adidas, after acquiring the pick from the New England Revolution via trade. The goalkeeper was signed to an MLS contract on Feb. 25, 2020 and is yet to make his debut with the Boys in Gold.
Hinds joined Nashville on Feb. 22, 2021 after Nashville SC acquired his Homegrown priority from Seattle Sounders FC. While in Seattle, Hinds made 68 total appearances for the club’s USL Championship side Sounders 2 as well as for Tacoma Defiance.
Panicco was NSC’s No. 2 keeper for much of last year, and his success in training sessions even gave Nashville the confidence to deal Adrian Zendejas to Minnesota United mid-season. However, given Willis’s quality and versatility – the veteran played every competitive minute for Nashville – Panicco did not see the pitch in Gold.
Meredith is a veteran himself, though in nine MLS seasons, he has just 16 appearances. He has also seen the field 25 times for Tacoma Defiance, the Seattle Sounders’ reserve team in MLS. Last season, he made three starts for Vancouver Whitecaps, and while the stats weren’t pretty – 10 goals-against and 20 saves – he actually performed better than most of the other members of Vancouver’s keeper room.
Saunders redshirted and played three years at Akron, playing 18 games for the Zips and allowing 21 goals while making 40 saves for a team that’s not quite at its historical peak. He transferred to Coastal Carolina last offseason, and in nine games played (eight in the fall season and one so far this Spring) has saved 32 shots and allowed just seven goals.
Austin Bold (not to be confused with MLS expansion side Austin FC) has addressed most of its positional needs through player recruitment, with goalkeeper the one exception thus far. Panicco will have the opportunity to compete for starting minutes – something that’s out of the question in Music City for the immediate future – and gain valuable reps for the future. Should Nashville have an emergent need for players, a loan recall would be fairly simple.
Hind’s loan comes after he arrived in a trade with Seattle Sounders this offseason. A left back with a bright future, he has played only with Tacoma Defiance to this point, and came to Nashville in search of playing time. Meanwhile, NSC needed – and still needs – to acquire Homegrown players from other MLS clubs to fill slots before its academy is built out. Hinds will get that playing time in Austin.
As is typical with these types of agreements, Nashville can recall either or both players if necessary later this season.