Ahmed Longmire photo courtesy UCLA.
Nashville SC’s management has consistently made smart use of the MLS SuperDraft, and the 2022 edition sees the club move up in the draft – sending Colorado Rapids $125,000 in General Allocation Money and the No. 26 overall pick – to pick UCLA centerback Ahmed Longmire at No. 10 overall.
In two years as a Bruin, Longmire started 19 of his 20 games played (about which more in a moment!), taking eight total shots, two on target. He was All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention as a senior – and the players who flanked him in the Draft, Washington’s duo of Kendall Burks and Ryan Sailor picked first- and second-team ahead of him, respectively.
Prior to heading to Westwood, the Las Vegas native played at Utah Valley University, starting 16 of 18 games as a freshman and playing literally every minute during his sophomore year. He took 12 shots (one on goal) and recorded one assist as a Wolverine. He was All-Freshman WAC in 2018 and first-team all-league as a sophomore.
What sort of player is he? As SBI Soccer‘s Skylar Rolstad wrote:
In terms of pro centerbacks he considers role models, Longmire points to U.S. men’s national team defender Walker Zimmerman, who he was able to speak with during Zimmerman’s time with Los Angeles FC. Longmire also points to European stars such as Sergio Ramos and Thiago Silva as inspirations, and former MLS Defender of the year Ike Opara as someone he would like to emulate as a pro.Skylar Rolstad, SBI Soccer
At 6-2, he’s not as big as the American comparables, but bigger than the European duo listed there. Interestingly, the scouting video from his agent lists his secondary position as left back (although he is right-footed):
The Zimmerman comparison feels apt based on the highlight: a work-in-progress positionally (obviously Nashville got Zimmerman after most of those growing pains were worked out, or at least translated into more of a “risk-taking” characteristic) and on the ball, but with outstanding reactions and athleticism to pick out crosses, close down opponents, and make up ground when he’s out of position. Like Zimmerman, he reads the ball in the air well to win aerial duels. He doesn’t show the same explosiveness to get up, nor the same level of power from his headed balls – though obviously those would be a lot to ask for a young player.
On the ball, he’s pretty good at dribbling by a closer presser, though obviously some of that is a simple matter of strikers being a little less defensively sound. He can turn and ride out a challenge on his back, and has some nice little tricks on the ball. Passing-wise, he’s more long-ball oriented at this stage. In both phases, he’s heavily right-footed. Speed-wise and technically (at least in the style he played for UCLA), I don’t see a guy who’s likely to be a fullback at the next level.
The main knock on Longmire at UCLA has been his availability. He was healthy to play in just eight of 19 games for the Bruins this year, though he started all 12 games in the spring season (and as previously noted, he was an ironman for Utah Valley as a sophomore). Mike Jacobs has not traditionally shied away from guys with an injury history, sometimes with great results (Daniel Ríos in his first year in Nashville, Aníbal Godoy), but also with some misses (Daniel Ríos in the two years since, Abu Danladi). Given the lack of a longer-term injury trend, it seems a solid choice to get a guy who was largely projected as one of the best couple non-Generation Adidas options at No. 10.
Despite being a four-year college player, he doesn’t turn 23 until the end of the year, so he’s eligible to make reserve minimum for two years (through his age-24 season). There’s a bit of a value play there, too – though $125k is a somewhat steep price for a draft pick.
Given that Nashville brings back two-time reigning league DPOY in Zimmerman, along with Dave Romney, Jack Mahers, and Robert Castellanos (and Eric Miller), plus adds re-entry pick Josh Bauer, there’s an opportunity to bring Longmire along slowly – likely with a USL loan after training camp concludes, with a right of recall potentially exercised at some point if he develops rapidly.