100 Matches In: Daniel Lovitz

Here at Broadway Sports Media, we’re introducing a new, regular feature on our feed. 

Each time a Nashville SC player reaches a milestone in appearances for the club (10, 25, 50, 100, 150, 200, and so on…), we will take a snapshot look at their history for the Boys in Gold. 

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Before we get into Daniel Lovitz’s first 100 matches with Nashville SC, I need to make one quick acknowledgment. This series has been 100% inspired by the work of Dominic Jerams. His website, Sideways Sammy, covers Coventry City, my favorite club across the pond. This series is a long-running feature on Sideways Sammy, and I am not sure why it took me so long to borrow the idea. 

On to Lovitz…

Overview

In a quiet manner, Daniel Lovitz has become the first outfield player to reach 100 appearances for Nashville SC exclusively in the MLS era. 

Lovitz’s steady presence on the left side of the defense has formed a key component of Nashville’s core since Day 1. 

Mike Jacobs acquired Lovitz via a trade with CF Montréal in the leadup to the inaugural MLS season. Nashville gave Montréal $50,000 GAM, $50,000 TAM, and a 2020 International Roster slot for Lovitz. The deal has proved to be an absolute steal for NSC and one of the best moves by Jacobs in constructing the initial roster. 

Montréal was willing to part with Lovitz as he was in line for a significant salary increase. The fullback earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups earlier that year. Following the trade, Jacobs bumped his salary from a paltry $97,000 to $395,000 in 2020. 

Since then, Lovitz and the club agreed to a new deal in 2022 that provided the veteran left back a further raise to just under $500,000. For a dependable starter that hardly ever seems to miss a match due to either injury or suspension (he’s missed just 11 matches in four seasons), it has been money well spent for Nashville.  

What the number say

Lovitz, like most defenders, doesn’t fill up the stat sheet. Since touching down in Tennessee, he’s produced 2 goals and 12 assists. He has no goal contributions in 2023. 

Even if he doesn’t rack up assists, Lovitz’s top trait can be measured in a different manner. It is his dependability. Since joining Nashville SC, Lovitz has played 8522 league minutes, the second most of any fullback in MLS over that time span. As the saying goes, the best ability is availability. 

That Gary Smith can always count on Lovitz to be fit and available selection is an attribute in of itself. 

With Lovitz seemingly always on the pitch, he has had a chance to continually contribute to Nashville’s success. Since 2020, Lovitz is fourth among MLS fullbacks in Key Passes (113), trailing only Julian Gressel, Brooks Lennon, and Kai Wagner – an elite company of peers. 

It will not come as much surprise that these passes often come from balls swung into the box. Lovtiz’s average pass travels 23.52 yards, the third-longest accumulation among fullbacks over the last four seasons combined. This average sandwiches him between crossing specialists Kai Wagner and Julian Gressel.

For total production since 2020, Lovitz has accumulated the eighth highest goals added (g+) tally among MLS fullbacks. If you are not familiar with American Soccer Analysis’ “Goals Added” metric, it “measures a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense. It does this by calculating how much each touch changes their team’s chances of scoring and conceding across two possessions.”

Lovitz is able to compile these statistics because he is constantly on the field. However, it is also worth examining his per-match contributions. 

Lovitz bounces just slightly above league average for fullbacks in goals added on a per 96-minute basis. His best year was 2021 (+0.17 / 96 minutes). His “worst” season came in 2020 (0.14 g+ / 90), a very narrow range that suggests a consistent output year over year. Through the first eleven matches of the 2023 campaign, Lovitz ranks 24th among qualifying MLS fullbacks in goals added. 

This season, he ranks 30th among fullbacks in Key Passes per match, but 51st in expected assists. That figure along with the lack of any assists is partly an indictment on Nashville’s strikers. A player of his ilk depends on forwards making darting runs and winning aerial duels to convert crosses into goals. 

Elsewhere on the pitch, Lovitz completes around one pass less than expected per 100 passes (as measured by American Soccer Analysis). While this suggests that he may give away possession slightly more often than average, Lovitz compensates elsewhere. 

Lovitz is incredibly ball secure. Think about it. How often do you ever see him get straight-up dispossessed? That ball security shows up in statistics. In 2023, Lovitz ranks 40th among all MLS players, regardless of position, in dispossessed percentage

In defense, Lovitz is a high-level one-v-one defender. Per Opta, he ranks in the 82nd percentile among fullbacks in the percentage of dribblers tackled

Lastly, Lovitz scores highly in a key measure that is important for any Nashville defender. Per Opta, Lovitz ranks in the 95th percentile among fullbacks in aerial duel win percentage. For a team like Nashville that happily invites opponents to fruitlessly lob crosses into the box, it is important that all defenders, not just Walker Zimmerman, are able to win their 50/50s in the box.  

The eye test

In Lovitz’s case, the numbers paint a pretty accurate picture. He is not an elite-level talent, but his usefulness to Nashville SC amplifies his impact. 

Lovitz hardly ever misses a match. Moreover, he provides Gary Smith with positional versatility. In addition to a left-sided fullback or wingback role, Lovitz, at various times, has been positioned as a center back and as an inverted fullback on the right. It is clear that Smith has a lot of trust in the veteran. 

That dependability permeates into his play. Lovitz is not a flashy player, but he rarely makes a critical mistake and takes care of the ball in possession. 

His most highlight-worthy moments often come from his crossing. In its pursuit of a new starting striker, Nashville would do well to find a forward capable of developing a connection with Lovitz.

In attack, Lovitz rarely chips in goals. He just has two goals in his time with Nashville. While some squads may ask their fullbacks to make dangerous back-post runs, Gary Smith seemingly instructs Lovitz to hang back deeper. 

For a defensively-minded manager, the rest defense to prevent easy counterattacking opportunities upon losing possession is a vital component of the attacking structure in of itself. However, Lovitz has shown the willingness to hit a chance when a ball bounces his way. 

When pinned back on defense, Lovitz’s safe, workmanlike game continues to be his calling card. It is rare to see him lose one-v-one defensive battles unless matched up against one of the truly unique talents or athletic specimens of the league. 

Looking forward

Lovitz, 31, is inching closer to the end of prime. However, it’s by no means time to put him out to pasture. Several MLS fullbacks have successfully played into their mid-thirties. 

That being said, Nashville signaled the start of succession planning at the left-sided fullback position.

This past offseason, Mike Jacobs selected Joey Skinner with the 10th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Skinner, 20, is a Generation Adidas signee. This mechanism allows Nashville to keep Skinner from impacting the salary cap for the next three seasons – plenty of time to develop him as Lovitz’s heir apparent. 

Lovitz signed a contract extension prior to the 2022 season. There is no publicly available information indicating how long the contract lasts.

Regardless of contract status, I expect Lovitz to remain a Boy in Gold for the next few seasons as a vital component of Nashville’s core.

Author: Chris IveyChris is a senior writer covering Nashville SC. His writings focus on the team at large and often navigate the complexity of roster building around the myriad of MLS rules. Outside of Broadway Sports Media, Chris resides in Knoxville and is a licensed attorney. Beyond NSC, he is always willing to discuss Tennessee football and basketball, Coventry City, and USMNT. Follow Chris on Twitter

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