Nashville SC

Preseason press conference: Mike Jacobs, Gary Smith, and Sean Davis

Nashville SC general manager Mike Jacobs, head coach Gary Smith, and midfielder Sean Davis met with the media from the club’s preseason camp in Florida. Watch or read their full comments (nearly 7,000 words worth!) here.

Mike Jacobs and Gary Smith

Jacobs – opening statement: “We’ve obviously had some roster movement that’s been announced the past couple days. To Matt’s point, I just want to kind of echo the fact that, unless something’s been announced formally by the league office, we’re just not going to make any comment about players on our roster.

“The one that was announced most recently was the mutual termination of Miguel Nazarit. We certainly wish Miguel well. It’s unfortunate that there wasn’t more of an opportunity for him here. The reality is, when we first pursued signing Miguel as our first player in that capacity – looking at a young international player – it was a time before we had drafted Jack Maher, and before we had traded for Walker Zimmerman. It was a time when we only had two centerbacks on our roster in Dave Romney and Jalil Anibaba. And while we certainly wish Miguel well and think he’s got a lot of potential as a player and as a person, the reality was there just weren’t opportunities for him to get his nose around the corner here, and we certainly wish him well going forward in his own opportunities.”

Smith – opening statement: “It’s always nice to get the group back together again after a little bit of rest and recuperation mentally and physically. We’re pretty well-versed with the whole IMG [academy] surroundings and setup here, which I think is very conducive to the work that needs to be done in these early stages. The group’s come back in wonderful shape. There’s plenty of testing in all clubs around the country at this point, and I’ve got to say I’m absolutely delighted with the way that the guys have turned up. The last couple of days that we’ve had in far better conditions than we could’ve expected in Nashville have been very, very good. I’m really, really happy with the way things have opened up in this start of preseason.”

What are your areas of improvement and goals for the season?

Smith: “I think, from the perspective of an offseason with a lot of things to digest and be happy about in terms of our regular-season form and improvements within the group, what are we after this year? I would have to say something close to what we’ve seen in the last year. I think the challenges for us, and that have been put in front of us, are quite monumental in terms of shifting conferences, travel that the group will have to undertake. So if we can maintain some of the sort of consistency as a team – defensively and of course as a creative and goal-scoring unit – I don’t think we’ll be fair away from where we want to be again come the end of the season.

“As far as individuals, there’s two or three of the guys within the group that would’ve liked to see more playing time last year, and each and every one of those guys have come back in terrific shape, and look like they’ve got terrific appetite to make a little bit of a mark. And if those guys that we’ve brought in and didn’t get the football that they necessarily felt that they should’ve can have an effect on the group, then guess what? It’ll give us much more strength, and I think, competitiveness to endure what will be a difficult season.”

Jacobs: “Gary and I met earlier today, and talked about the idea – I mentioned it with you guys a little bit after the SuperDraft – about trying to put ourselves in a position, from a roster-construction standpoint, to kind of weaponize our roster. From the idea, when you look at the amount of allocation money and other assets we’ve been able to collect – whether it’s leaving some of our roster spots open, whether it’s international spots, which we have both to use for players as well as to sell to acquire additional allocation money – we’re in a position right now where, one of our goals all along was to help position Gary to not only have a team to compete right now, but when the opportunity presents itself for him to need an upgrade, or freshen up, that we have the resources to do that. Teams that have the kind of allocation money we normally have usually are expansion teams. For us to be in position to have those kind of weapons to have at our disposal – to be able to add players at the right time – we’re excited about that.

“In regards to on the field, looking I would say it’s uncharted territory when you think about teams going into their third year: one, having won playoff games in each of our first two years, but even to be in position to be competing for a third playoff appearance in three years. As Gary mentioned, we want to be able to maintain consistency, and kind of demonstrate the things we’ve done these last years to show that they’re things we can do all the time. I think it’s really kind of appropriate and intriguing that our Week One opponent is Seattle. Because they are the flagship club in our league. They are the team that’s been most successful from the standpoint of not only MLS Cups and MLS Cup appearances, but also sustaining success in the amount of years they’ve gone to the postseason. For us to be able to measure ourselves up against them in Week One, to have two teams that operate in very different sets of circumstances but hopefully will have similar levels of aspiration to success. We love to be in a situation to not only be playing them in Week One, but to be in a situation where we can be comparing ourselves to them year after year.”

What do your preparations look like in terms of choosing a tactical shape, focusing on one versus remaining multiple, and implementing all that to help turn draws into wins on the table?

Smith: “Just a little bit of an insight maybe, as to what our training program looks like, and the foundational work that we try and achieve in these six weeks building into the season. There’ll be video footage of ourselves, and of teams – that I’ve often referred to as mirror teams – that will play in a very similar way to our own desires, that we can refer back to, we can use as informational pictures, if you like, to help reinforce some of the good things that we achieved last year, and also to try and help each and every individual improve and take a step forward in their respective positions. That is wrapped up in the practical work, the physical work, and of course, the relationship-building that any team will have during the preseason period of time.

“The considerations for us have to be looked at from scheduling standpoint: eight games away from home for the very outset, then we have a glut of home games because of that, from that middle period on. And in my own mind, there’s some thoughts and feelings as to what the early part of the season could and should look like to give us a strong foundation: one that is a platform to help us push on when we come back to our own stadium, and a situation that we all hope is going to inspire the players, and we can make as much use of as we did at the Titans’ stadium. That’s the main aim for all of us.

“But that, in itself, won’t be easy, because we have some history at Titans’ now that we were able to draw on over a two-year period. The hope is we can get off on a good footing when we open up on May the 1st, and as I say, hopefully give us a lift and a shot in the arm when we’ll need it.”

Who are some of the guys that you’re expecting to step up in the preseason absences of Walker Zimmerman, Randall Leal, and Aníbal Godoy, who are with their national teams?

Smith: “To Mike’s point earlier, we were having a chat after the training session. Circumstances offer up opportunities to other players, when, under normal circumstances, you may not see as much training time in a particular position, working with a particular player – guys like Sean Davis come straight into the group, and with Aníbal with his country, it’s an easy transition into the group, and for him to see some of the clearer pictures of working with the other first-team players around him. You can make that example of someone like Teal Bunbury, who comes into the group, who’s obviously looking to put a very strong and successful front line under pressure from the outset. When you’ve got a tighter group, it certainly gives those guys a better window to show themselves.

“And of course, probably the most important person – and I don’t like underlining people’s names or situations – but this is Ake [Loba]’s first full preseason with our group. And the one thing that’s been really encouraging, is he comes into the group when everyone’s on a level playing feel. He’s come in in geat shape. These first couple of days – which is a small sample size – I’ve seen a really encouraging aspect, not only to his game, but to everyone around him. I feel like the group, and of course himself individually, will have a big opportunity here to gain some much-needed confidence in where this opportunity of his is going.

“So I’ve been delighted. I think you can tell in the way I’ve been talking, it’s been a very nice opening for all sorts of people in these first couple of days.”

What’s the role for traditional wingers like Alex Muyl or Handwalla Bwana, assuming a three-at-the-back formation is here to stay?

Smith: “I think it’s a fairly decent question. In terms of question and shape, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to really take a look at our stats and our competitiveness within that 3-4-3 shape. It also gave – as we spoke on numerous occasions – Hany [Mukhtar], Randall [Leal], and CJ [Sapong] in particular, the opportunity to express themselves. So that shape, that template is one that wqill certainly be used and looked at in these early stages.

“Honestly, I’ve never liked saying, ‘this is, categorically, what we’re going to do.’ You know, there’ve been a couple of situations and examples of utilizing Dax [McCarty] as sort of a forward screening area, dropping in as a third centerback, which I really like the sound of for the group. Whilst Walker’s away, it’s an opportunity for me to look at that. So there’s always a little slant on that style that Im thinking of – and of course depending on the opponent, it can have very different effects on any game.

“As far as the individuals go, we’ve already spoken about opportunity. It is definitely a time to look at guys like Alex in an extended viewing in a wingback role. I do honestly think that someone like Handwalla [Bwana] is extremely well-suited to the roles that Hany and Randall will play within the team. The challenge, of course, is that you’re looking at two exceptionally good players – one of which is an international, and the other one should be. Now, it’s certainly not easy to break into that, in that area of the field, because of the creativity and goal-scoring necessary for the group. But I’ve got to tell you, the abilities of the person we’re talking about are there to see: he’s infused and he’s very much excited about the challenge in front of him.”

Is there any possibility of bringing in more talent before the season? And if so, what are the positions that you’re most likely to look at?

Jacobs: “Claudio, first off thanks for the question, and it’s funny: when I see members of the media talk about what our team needs, and I think the idea of added punch up front? We were one of the leading scoring teams in MLS last year, and really return everyone intact. So I think it’s a little short-sighted and maybe a little naive too, but I can appreciate the idea of wanting to have DP shiny toys to point to. I think, as Gary mentioned the opportunity to see Ake in a full preseason, to have him integrate at a time, maybe, while Randall’s out-of-market with the national team, to see him play with the likes of Hany and CJ and Teal rotating all together, that’s been really encouraging. “

But for us, we’re always looking to try to make sure we have as many different scoring options as possible. I love the idea of trying to give Gary as difficult a time as possible to try to pick his team because he’s got so many options. So I think for us, we’ve got a pretty diverse attack right now, but it’s always something we’d always continue to try to freshen up.

“We also traded a player in Aliistair Johnston this past offseason who played quite a bit for us on the right flank each of the last two years. As Gary mentioned also, you have guys like Alex Muyl who played an awful lot for us in some really important game over the last two years. Where we feel like we’re pretty well-stocked in that role also, we’ll always try to see what can be freshened up. It could be those roles, but the reality is, we’re in a position right now where, as we keep moving along, if there’s any area that Gary feels like we have need to kind of freshen up, we have the ability to do that.”

What is the difficulty of moving to the West, and how much has it changed since you won MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids in 2020?

Smith: “Yeah Claudio, it’s always interesting to listen to the opinions that people have about the tqwo conferences – and I do think there are some differences fundamentally between the two leagues. When you look at really the construction of the Eastern Conference – teams like Red Bull and DC, their style of play that upwardly-positive, pressing, aggressive fashion. Philadelphia have, over the last three or four seasons, been really successful with the way that they go about their business. And I don’t think anyone would say they were possession-orientated teams, but they were very, very effective in what they do, and still very aggressive.

“Whereas you get the opinion – and when I look at the games in theWestern Conference – there’s a more strategic and possession-orientated feel to that, especially the further West you go. Is that due to the climate? Is it due to the makeup of the teams? I don’t know. But as you start to come into the sort-of Midwest areas with Kansas and Minnesota, you’re getting back to what I might class as a more Eastern-looking divisional team.

“Now, the simple fact is, both divisions are very, very tough to play in. The challenge for us on this occasion, playing in the Wester Conference having had two good years in the Eastern Conference as a brand-new franchise, is that there’s a lot of appreciation of the teams that we’ve already played against. I think we’ve earned a little bit of respect – I’m not going to overdo the respectful chatter, because I might be speaking out of turn – but I think we’ve earned a little bit of respect with what we’ve achieved, and how we’ve gone about our business as a brand-new franchise. That respect counts for something when you’re playing against talented and capable teams. We’ve earned the right to put a little bit of doubt and a little bit of fear in people’s minds, with what we’re capable of in the Eastern Conference.

“When we go to the West, I can count on one hand the teams that we’ve run into, and the majority of those teams, we will have have changed quite dramatically since we played them early on in our very first year. So not only have we got to get used to their style, there’s a completely different look and feel to those games that we’re going to undertake for the majority of the season. Throw into the fact hat there’s some tremendous traveling and logistical question marks for the group, in the way that we prepare for games, the time-xone changes, and then of course the recovery for the next game. So for all of those reasons, this will be a very, very different season to the last two.

“Of course, throw into the equation a new stadium, and eight games away from home to begin with that we haven’t experienced. Have we got the moral fiber and the discipline to deal with that? Absolutely. But it’ll certainly be a challenge.”

What have you seen from Sean Davis, both that made you want to sign him, and so far in preseason?

Smith: “Well quite honestly, I think if I threw that question back open to you fellas, and say to you, ‘look if you had to pick a midfield player for this Nashville group having seen what you’ve seen out of the first two years, what would some of the qualities be that you would like to bring to this team, or you believe this team should have in that central midfield area?’ And without waiting on all the answers*, I’d be really surprised if you didn’t come up with somebody that looked exactly like Sean Davis: a very competitive, yet intelligent and technically-capable individual. His pass-completion rate is very high, his win ration and turnover of the ball is very high, and on top of all of that, he’s an impeccable character, and has been the captain of one of the most progressive and productive teams in MLS with young players and the direction they’ve gone in. I’m absolutely delighted that Sean’s part of our group. I think he’s a huge coup for the team, I think he’ll be a wonderful piece as we move forward and gives us some tremendous competition i that midfield area that was already a very strtong area of our game.

“As far as training, his adaptation to us and to the team – it goes without saying – a captain, 29-year old experienced player of his ilk in MLS has run into just about all of the players in our group over a period of time. I think I’m right in saying that someone like Alex Muyl is a very close friend of his from years gone by and the New York pathway. It’s been a seamless move, and the work that I’ve seen already – although a small sample size – just reinforces what I felt and looked at prior to his arrival.

* Rude! Just listen to the ‘cast, Gary!

What are you looking forward to, and what have you already seen in your brief looks at 2022 SuperDraftees Ahmed Longmire and Will Meyer?

Smith: “We, I believe, made a very positive and forceful move in trying to get higher up the order to add Ahmed. Lots and lots of potential in this young defender. Athletically, I think are his biggest attributes. When he’s come into preseason, and I think now seeing him up close, I think we’ll all agree that he could probably do with putting on six or eight pounds as he goes through his early professional introductions, and over the course of the next months – and having had a chat with him, he understands that. He’s running into seasoned pros now who are not only physically capable, but understand their trade exceptionally well, and I think that workload will stand him in good stead as he moves through this development period.

“As far as Will’s concerned, I’ve got to be honest: I’ve not seen a huge amount of him in training; he’s been over with [GKs coach] Matt Pickens and the goalkeeper corps to get through a lot of their foundational work. But a very agile goalkeeper, quick feet, lots of athleticism. Strangely enough, a little bit outside the usual mold of sort of 6-5, 6-6 goalkeepers that we’ve got. But as far as an addition to the group, a very positive one. I know we traded for guys like Josh [Bauer] from Atlanta – picked him up in the waiver draft – but these are all nice, young additions to the group, and all these guys have got some real nice potential.”

Midfielder Sean Davis

What was it about Nashville that made it such an attractive destination in Free Agency?

“First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for joining this call, and for the local media, hopefully we can meet in person when Covid passes, but I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone. But Tim, back to your question, it’s gonna be a long answer. [Narrator: it was].

I think first of all, I think that Nashville is a club that’s gotten so many tings right, not only in its MLS tenure, but also dating back to the USL days. As soon as free agency opened on December 15, it was great to get to understand where this club has been/. It helped me understand how they’ve done so well in just their first two years, and it gave me great confidence in what the club can achieve going forward.

“Now in terms of personally why I decided to join Nashville, first of all I look at the locker room, and I have a lot of admiration for how it was constructed. I look around, and I felt like it was a group that I could immediately connect with. Not only did I know several guys including Alex and Dax – Danny Lovitz from PDL, Taylor Washington from growing up, Bryan Meredith is from Jersey – I could go down the list of different guys. But you can also talk about how many guys want to be part of the MLSPA, and want to be player reps. I was the rep since 2015 in New York, and I think that was another strong indication that I would fit in with this group. There’s just a lot of MLS veterans – both domestic and international – and that’s something that I identify as, and I really appreciate their focus on MLS experience.

“On top of that, I think that they also value a lot of things that I bring to the game coming from New York: extremely disciplined team defensively, they value defensive workrate. But at the same time, I really appreciate the progress that they made form Year One to Year Two with the ball, and already in my first few sessions and working with Gary and the group, I can see how they progress. And so, I think that’s an area of my game that I can continue to improve on, and so I saw an opportunity to continue to grow as a player.

“I’ve worked with so many coaches over my career, so many great players over my career, and so many of them had taken steps to new teams, new environments, to ultimately grow. And I’m a big believer in that: I come from a family that really believes in that. And again, I just try to learn from players that have been in the league longer than me, and I think that ultimately those were really important experiences for them.

“I also think the timing was great in my career: being a free agent is very rare, especially in this league. It’s a new mechanism, honestly, and having that freedom to choose, it just allowed me to choose a team that I feel like I could really fit in well with. The timing was great also because they’re playing ini the Western Conference. This is a team that’s been through a lot i the first two years together, they’ve achieved a lot. And so this gives me an opportunity to experience something new that this team hasn’t gone through before. And as a player, it’s a unique experience to switch conferences – for at least a year, I don’t know what the future holds after that – but to at least experience a new conference and player against teams that, because of Covid, I haven’t played against as often. I think that’s a unique challenge and again, stepping out of my comfort zone and growing as a player: that’s really important to me, and I know that I only have one career for this.

“Finally, I just hope that this is a place that I can be for a long period of time, and it’s a place that I could see myself being settled in eventually. But ultimately it’s up to me, and they’ve given me all the resources that I need. They’ve helped me settle in so quickly already. But you know, now it’s time for me to prove myself, and in a lot of ways I feel like a rookie. It’s an exciting feeling, it’s a special feeling, and I just can’t wait to fight for this team and for this club. I’m really thankful for how the entire process went, and I’m really just happy to be here.”

What’s the story behind wearing No. 27 at RBNY? And why No. 54 in Nashville?

“Yeah, so it’s funny: when I joined Red Bull, I was given 27. And actually, one of the players that was a huge inspiration for me, helped me feel so comfortable at the club was Kosuke [Kimura], and now he’s the assistant coach here, and it’s just funny how everything ties together. But I inherited his number, a Japanese guy [ed: Davis is half-Japanese], a great guy, and it’s really awesome to see that now he’s taken the next step, and he’s become an assistant coach here.

“Then in terms of my number, I’m not that crazy about numbers and what they mean, but I did have some thought behind it, and first of al I wanted to be respectful to [Brian] Anunga and his jersey number. Ultimately, I wanted to kind of carve my own path. So I was speaking about it with my family, and when I talked to them my mom was born in 1956, my dad was born in 1952: you take the average and it’s 54, and it’s double 27. So it’s just perfect, and I’m really excited. I come from a team where high numbers are very common, so I’m sure from the outside is a little different, but for me, I’m just looking to carve my own path, and I think that it was a good way to do so.”

What are your initial impressions of the midfield group you’re joining, and of the coaching staff?

“Yeah, when I think about Nashville and watching them play so many times over the last two years, and preparing for them this year, midfield is definitely a huge strength of the team, and I think that was attractive for me to play with great players. Obviously, you have Dax who is just an extremely good player: one of the players that everyone around the league looks up to, not only his quality, but his demeanor, his mentality, and he’s been so important in my development as a player. When I look back on my time at Red Bull, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you guys today if it wasn’t for Dax and seeing how he showed up every single day, and understanding what it took to be a top player in this league. That was a really important time for me. Dax knows this, but I’ll always be grateful for him, and I’ll always look up to him.

“I think the midfield is extremely strong. You could go down the line: every guy is talented in their own ways. But over the course of these last two seasons, it’s been really impressive to see them control games in different ways, and ultimately I’m just looking to add my best to the group and complement the group in any way possible.

“The sessions have been challenging, demanding, and I’d expect nothing less from Gary. On my visit, I had a great conversation with him, and he’s a guy that knows what it takes to win in this league. I loved picking his brain about his experiences at Colorado, and what helped him win there: the important qualities that he sees not only in a team but also ini my position. It’s been great to have those kinds of transparent conversations with him as well. Again, just looking to add my best to the group: I want the best for the team, I want the team to win, that’s paramount. I’m just really excited to be here.”

How did the end of your time with RBNY come about? How did your free agency courtship with Nashville play out?

“Leaving Red Bull, we ended on great terms, and that’s pretty rare in this business – and at the end of the day, it is a business. It’s a sport that I love, but it’s not always easy. We had conversations about a new contract dating back to July. It’s never going to be easy, but again, for me it’s about stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new. But it’s a club that I love and respect, and they’re going to be down here at IMG, and honestly I can’t wait to see the guys again; I can’t wait to see the coaching staff. We have a great relationship, and I wish them nothing but the best. I truly mean that. I’m truly excited to see how they build on that last season and what we went through together.

“In terms of Nashville, honestly it was just a really special time in my career. Free agency, again, is new in this league, and I think all of us are adapting to that now – whether that’s sporting directors, coaches, players: it’s evolving. And I think that’s only healthy for everyone. Being an MLSPA rep for the past seven years, I truly appreciate the work that’s gone into making free agency a meaningful mechanism within the league. To be able to benefit from that is definitely a rewarding feeling. It was challenging to think about my future the entire season last year, but ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think, again, it was demanding, but it brought the best out of me. It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my career and be able to pass on those experiences to other guys that are going through a similar situation. Even when I look at [Albert] Rusnak and other players that are going through free agency, I respect the mentality that they have to show to show up every single day and give their best for the team. Because at the end of the day , that’s what it’s all about: playing well during the games. When you step on the field, all that matters is the three points.

“But going back to your question about Nashville, it really was a special time. When free agency opened on December 15 and we were finally able – along with my agent – finally able to talk to other teams about interest, it was just a no-brainer to think about Nashville for the reasons that I outlined before. I’ll remember every aspect of it for the rest of my life, honestly. As soon as we possibly could get everything organized, Mike Jacobs, John Ingram (the owner of Nashville SC), they flew up to Teterboro [N.J.], they picked up my girlfriend and me, and we flew on a private plane to Nashville. That’s just something I never would have expected in my entire career. I would’ve been happy flying to Nashville in Economy, but this was definitely a special gesture from them. It was an emotional experience: it made me feel so appreciative that they would go to these lengths to show that they valued me.

“And we just had a great trip. I was able to go to a Nashville Predators game, and I saw once again how Nashville supports their sports teams. We went out to dinner, we were wined and dined, and my girlfriend and I just had a great feeling about going to Nashville and playing for Nashville. And when I reflect on that time, it all kind of makes sense for me: because Mike Jacobs has college recruiting experience, and going into free agency, I was already approaching it like my college recruiting days. Back then, I went with what felt right, and I did the same thing this time. Nashville just felt like a great fit. There was a lot of interest, but I kind of had my blinders on at that point, and Nashville had just done so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like the right move, and I was convinced of it. So we took time to continue to explore free agency, to continue to understand the process to make sure that I was making the right decision, that I felt like I was making the right decision, and it was a big decision – but ultimately they did everything right. I really appreciated their attention to detail, their thoughtfulness. They knew everything about me as a player, from statistics to running data to just watching me – which I didn’t even know over the course of the season. It’s things that I wouldn’t have even thought of that they were already thinking about. I really appreciated that, and in the end it made a huge difference to me and gave me the right feeling.”

Where are you with want you want to achieve in a new chapter?

“I think at the end of the day, soccer is most important to me. I know that a career is only so long, and I love this game so much. I love playing and ultimately I just want this team to do as well as possible. I just want the team to win; I want to bring something special to Nashville – a team that I recognized at the last game of the season, when I was at New York and we were fighting for our playoff lives, I mean the stadium was electric, the support was unbelievable. Again, going to a Predators game to see the support there, I think it would be really special to win something. Open Cup, MLS Cup has been elusive in my career up until this point. The [Supporters] Shields have been great, but of course I want to continue to win as much as possible, and I feel like Nashville is a great place to do that. It’s going to be challenging, there’s no doubt about that, but that’s a big reason why I came here.

“In terms of personal goals, for sure I want to immerse myself as much in Nashville culture. My girlfriend and I love the idea of getting to know the different neighborhoods of Nashville, understanding the history, understanding where it’s come from, and why it’s one of the hottest places in the US right now. The same way that I approach traveling, I would love to really feel at-home in Nashville. They have such a rich culture already that we’re not going to run out of things to do. So getting the balance right of ultimately focusing on soccer, but at the same time enjoying what Nashville has to offer. I think that that’s something really exciting for us. Again, a unique time in my life, a perfect time in my life to experience something like this.”

Drake wrote a story calling you a ‘maestro’ when you signed. Do you see yourself as being that leader in the midfield, or what will your role be?

“Yeah, I think when I think about my playing style in New York, I would like to think that I was extremely aggressive against the ball, I would win the ball, and I would get the ball to our attacking, creative players. And I think that that’s something that makes a lot of sense playing for Nashville, as well. I love to hunt the ball, I love to run around, I love to do the dirty work. But at the same time,. I appreciate controlling the game with the ball as well, and again, spreading out the field, getting the ball to creative players like Hany, and Ake Loba, and different players like that. I think that that’s something that’s worked really well for Nashville, and something that I intend to do when I play for this team as well. So bringing my own qualities that I’ve developed for my first seven seasons, and also adding to those and becoming a better player. And I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than playing with already a talented midfiield group. So in a lot of ways, I see a lot of improvement that I can make in my game, and I’m really excited to build those qualities now coming to a new system.”

You were the only field player in MLS to play every minute of the season. First, have you had a chance to talk smack to Dave Romney after passing him on the final week of the regular season (in a head-to-head!), and secondly, how are you expecting to fit in minutes-wise with a midfield that returns most contributors?

“So I think – first of all, for Dave, unfortunately missing that last game of the season. After playing so many minutes myself, it helps me appreciate what he was able to do. Despite missing 90 minutes on the last day. Huge respect for him for being able to play as much as he did, and I take a lot of pride in being able to achieve that: not many players can say that for a number of different reasons, but especially during a Covid year it was challenging at times, but yeah, something I’m proud of.

“Like I’ve mentioned several times in this media session already, I’m looking to complement the midfield group. I’m looking to fight every single day to become a better player and ultimately help the team win, but I am also realistic that maybe I won’t be able to play every single minute. I’ll fight every day to do so, to earn my minutes, but I don’t want anything handed to me. I know I’ve seen the best players in the world move to new teams and struggle. So for me, my mentality is to show up every single day, continue to learn, outwork people, and ultimately set myself up to help the team as much as possible, and win games.

“That’s my goal for the first season here. I can’t wait to learn; I can’t wait to experience something new. This is a challenge that I’ve been really looking forward to.”

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