Nashville SC: A way too early preview as team prepares for 2021

Nashville SC. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville SC. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Here’s a way too early preview of Nashville SC as they prepare for the new season ahead

Nashville SC and Gary Smith found their identity shortly after the season’s restart this summer, and while it was not the prettiest style of soccer, the sit-deep and counter-attack approach was effective given the personnel of the squad. With a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a narrow loss to Columbus in the conference semi’s, Smith and General Manager Mike Jacobs should be pleased with the team’s inaugural season.

That said, there are still areas where the squad needs to maintain consistency, or improve on if they want to book a place at the MLS Cup next year.

Maintained Consistency: That Back Four

With Walker Zimmerman and Daniel Lovitz as the anchors, Nashville’s defense was nearly impenetrable. The loss to Columbus in the playoffs only came when Zimmerman wandered forward to create space in behind the backline. In a more disciplined universe, Nashville had a real chance to move on to the conference finals.

Even with a momentary lapse the Nashville back four still provided five of the team’s 24 goals in the regular season; more than a fifth. Additionally, Nashville were one of only three teams to have less than three defensive errors all season, and the back four also logged the seventh-most amount of tackles won all season. For a unit that had not played together before March, that is impressive. Smith needs to ensure a more disciplined role for Walker Zimmerman, and the team will get much more out of the 2021 season.

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Needed Improvement: Scoring Goals

In a system based on counter-attacking, Nashville was never bound to score that many goals, but it scored the fifth-fewest in the league and missed its only chance for a PK in the regular season. These facts do not point toward a confident attacking line.

Luckily for Nashville, Hany Mukhtar, a DP, proved comfortable in his more defensive role when the team was out of possession. Daniel Rios proved in the playoffs that he can provide consistent goals off the bench, and Nashville’s mid-season acquisition Jhonder Cadiz is more than willing to try and tire out defenses if he cannot get many chances in front of net.

All of this points toward an improved 2021 in the final third for Nashville, but if Rios gradually plays fewer and fewer minutes as the season wears on, or if Cadiz struggles to prove he can play a counter style, then Smith may have to acquire even more attacking talent.

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Again, luckily for Nashville, it traded away two international spots to Atlanta and Vancouver for GAM, leaving only a single spot left. But Mike Jacobs has said that he is planning on getting green cards for several of the four international spots. This means that Nashville should have more available international spots, and money, than a good portion of the other clubs. A perfect setup for Smith to cement a more threatening attack in 2021.