Welcome to Pot of Gold, which is the new title for my link-roundup posts, replacing the terrible “Pitch Points.” It’s also been a hot minute since one of these.
See the kit, buy the kit
Friday at Diskin Cider.
Nashville SC appears to be more-than-set at just about every position. Essentially all contributors from a year ago returned, with improved depth via free agency, trades, and the comfort of being in the system a bit longer. Right back is the lone exception, with Alistair Johnston and Dylan Nealis both traded away. Will Alex Muyl adapt to a new position and play FB/WB? Will Eric Miller get starters’ minutes there?
Nashville has apparently made multiple overtures to Spain’s CD Tenerife for USMNT right back Shaquell Moore, but the Segunda División team continues to rebuff them (H/T Larry Henry). MLS teams are proposing a loan move, since he plays pretty sparingly for Tenerife (13 appearances, nine starts, 477 minutes in 27 league games so far) and is under contract until Summer 2024. Your mileage may vary as to whether playing time is easier to come by in MLS than second-division Spain – I would contend the level of MLS is quite a bit higher, but of course we see Nashville’s need at the position – but Tenerife is also pushing for promotion this season, which is another wrench in the works.
Nashville has gobs of TAM and an open DP spot to play around with if they want to purchase Moore straight-up, though a loan could also work. At this stage, it seems he won’t be available until Summer anyway – so Tenerife can replace the player at the same time they’d lose him – with the window opening July 1 and going through Aug. 31 there (MLS’s window goes July 7-Aug. 4). He’s also not subject to the Allocation Order (which means acquiring his rights in-league has either already happened via Discovery, or should cost only around $50k in GAM).
Nashville SC errata
What 2021 meant for Nashville SC, from Matt Doyle. And from Andrew Wiebe‘s roundup of the league, something to celebrate:
Hany Mukhtar and the David Gass Year Two theorem. We just witnessed one of the best attacking seasons in MLS history. Nashville’s No. 10 is 26 years old. There are more Best XI/MVP-caliber seasons where that came from, especially if the attackers around him reach their potential, too.Andrew Wiebe
Now do Aké. (Also: listen to the ETR preview of Nashville SC in this episode).
The American Soccer Analysis guys continue doing great stuff with access to Second Spectrum data, and Eliot McKinley‘s look at the paths players take before their shots has some Nashville SC items of note:
Hany Mukhtar‘s got one of the most diverse charts when it comes to the paths he takes to goal (Maxi Urruti’s and Gustavo Bou’s are similar among players listed at striker), while it likely surprises precisely nobody that Josef Martinez bursts up the middle to get onto the ball and shoot. As for Mukhtar, if you take a look at the “attacking midfielders” chart, those look a little more like what he does – which makes sense since he’s playing a position somewhere in between CAM and striker (and often more like the former than latter).
Going to the winger chart, Randall Leal‘s paths are interesting: although he plays largely on the left wing, he really likes to cut across the top of the penalty area to shoot from the keeper’s left. That’s an odd fit for a guy who’s pretty much all-right, as it means he has to pull across his body (whereas you put a right-footed player on the left so he can cut in and shoot with that right foot from the side that gives him a bigger look at the net).
Steven Goff fluff on Walker Zimmerman‘s pursuit of a B coaching license.
As for the more distant future… Nashville SC Academy doesn’t stream its home games, and plenty of the away games in the 2021-22 season have been non-streamed as well, which is frustrating if you’re out here trying to follow the future. We do get limited glimpses, though, such as highlights for the U-17s against NYCFC back in October:
And finally for this section:
Is it possible to short one of these bets? Give me the field over LAFC 100% of the time. I know I know, sportsbooks aren’t trying to pick winners so much as project public opinion in ways that allow them to make money. But: LOL.
For the USMNT #discourse
This is hyper-old (you’ll note a few of the links in this post are! It’s been like a year since a link roundup!), but very interesting on USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter:
A coach’s job consists primarily of scouting, managing people, and determining which players mesh well together in limited practice time.
For an innate X’s and O’s guy like Berhalter, that means dumbing things down. “It was something I had to get used to,” he tells me in late June. “That was one thing I had to evaluate: What can we accomplish and what is unrealistic to accomplish? We put everything under the microscope. Because all it’s about is transferring information and how much information can be transferred in such a short period of time.Leander Schaeckerlens
I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement in the USMNT-following world about whether Berhalter sees himself that way. Certainly there may be some disagreement over how effective he is. Understanding how he thinks – and even why individual points of disagreement may pop up between Berhalter and the fanbase – can help contextualize the job done.
I would actually really like to see an update to this piece, with 11 of 14 World Cup Qualifying matches in the books, as to how Berhalter would evaluate himself in that regard. There’s a disconnect between what the results have been and what the perception of the job he’s performed has been, as well:
After two and a half years in charge, Berhalter has the highest winning percentage (78.6) of any full-time manager in men’s national team history by some distance His teams score more goals (2.4 per game) and concede fewer (0.66) than any previous coach.Leander Schaeckerlens
Worth nothing that the GF/GA numbers are now at 2.13 and 0.64. At the very least, that matches the perception that World Cup Qualifying has largely been about solidity at the back first. For what it’s worth, I took a look at how the performances have compared to expected goals:
|Home||Home xG||Scoreline||Away xG||Away||Luck-o-meter|
|El Salvador||0.29||0-0||1.68||USA︎ ︎︎︎ ︎︎︎||⬇︎|
|USA||1.42||2-1||0.24||Costa Rica ︎||⬌|
The US has been lucky in three games, unlucky in three (per an eyeball test, nothing in-depth with statistical analysis), though the only result-altering bits of luck – taking into account gamestates, too – came in dropped points at El Salvador and (one could argue) a draw-turned-loss against Panama. A bit more luck in either of those games and the US is basically in.
The question then becomes whether there’s something inherent to the system (or personnel selections) that causes xG underperformance on a consistent basis, but I think the table doesn’t show that’s the case. That’s also an argument against one narrative that’s out there: “it doesn’t matter what the results are, because the team mis overachieving the process” doesn’t seem to be true.
Big-picture, Berhalter remains basically replacement-level, IMO. I do have a sneaking suspicion that at some point the attack may just click, though, and that could turn this team from a very good Concacaf one into a contender to go further in the World Cup than the Americans ever have.
Player from Tennessee is pro. … This dude was a blogger and got picked in the NBA Draft. … So you’re telling me there’s a chance. … Shoutout to friend-of-the-blog Steve Cavendish for bringing this old story on Lionel Messi to my attention. Can’t say I agree with the premise fully, but it’s lovely prose (as is frequently the case with soccer writing in a way that doesn’t apply in other sports). … The ol’ “I believe my eyes, not your spreadsheet, nerd” cohort something something. Ben Torvaney on the projectability of xG.