Nashville SC held an introductory press conference for new signings Dax McCarty and Dave Romney on Thursday morning, where both players as well as GM Mike Jacobs and Head Coach Gary Smith talked about the new acquisitions and how they will fit in the club’s plans.
Off the bat, Jacobs emphasized how McCarty and Aníbal Godoy compliment each other on the field. “Their games just balance each other really well. You have two really good footballers who can impact games on both sides of the ball, and I just think both their games lend itself to be a really good fit together.” On Romney, Jacobs noted that “he’s just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.” He pointed out his versatility and ability to play on the left and in the center in both a back three and a back four, as well as his composure in possession.
Smith agreed. “Dave comes as a real important link in our backline. Whether thats as a center back, which is where Im viewing him a this point, but also that flexibility to slot in on the left.” He noted that Romney has played in nearly 100 matches at the MLS level and is just now entering his prime, turning 27 midway through the 2020 season.
McCarty talked about the draw of Nashville. “The first thing that stuck out to me was the success they’ve had in USL. It’s a club that consistently challenged for trophies.” He noted his familiarity with Gary Smith as a selling point. “I always had a very high level of respect for how his teams played in MLS. Those Colorado teams… you wouldn’t say they had a tremendous amount of individual talent, but what you would always say about them was they were very well drilled and well coached and extremely organized. I think if you’re going to have success in MLS, that’s the absolute minimum you have to have. You have to have that base and that foundation for your team, and then you can build out from there.” McCarty also talked about Jacobs and the consistency his Sporting Kansas City teams have had. “I look at the totality of everything that I wanted as I get to the latter stages of my career, and Nashville presented all of that to me. Add in the fact that it’s an expansion team and you get to be a part of something from the very beginning… that’s extremely appealing to me.”
Romney’s thoughts on Nashville were very similar. He said that he had interest from other clubs, but he found his values aligning with Smith and Jacobs and has a similar way of seeing the game. “I didn’t see any negatives at all.” He also expressed a desire to experience life in a different place, having spent his whole life in California.
When asked how the fit into the Nashville SC model of being strong with and without the ball, Romney said that he prides himself on being a good defender and not getting beaten in one on one battles. “I pride myself on not playing kickball. I try to complete as many passes as possible; I don’t lose the ball a lot.” Romney called himself a stats junky, and said that he has research LA Galaxy’s points-per-game with him on the field versus without him. “I pride myself on the statistics of what I’ve done over the last four years. I’ve tried to present that to the people at the Galaxy, and nothing ever worked. It was tough to find my footing when I would constantly be started over by someone who I was statistically better than.”
McCarty talked about his adaptability. “I’ve had plenty of coaches throughout my career, and they’ve all been very different in how they’ve wanted to play.” He said he doesn’t just pride himself on his defensive or attacking abilities, but his ability to be effective on both sides of the ball. “When I watch modern soccer, what really stands out to me is that their best players (usually attacking players) are always the players that are leading the line from the front in terms of workrate, pressure, defensive stability, and organization. If you can find players like that, it trickles down through the entire roster.”
McCarty also talked about his role as a leader on the field. “As I’ve progressed throughout my career, I’ve tried to take it on myself to be a coach on the field.” He said that it’s his job, along with other veterans on the field, to ensure that the team is doing what the coach has asked of them.
On his exit from the Chicago Fire, McCarty stayed away from getting into specifics, but was very appreciative of how the Fire organization handled things. He said that once his agent told him of the interest from Nashville, he and his wife decided it would be best to move on. McCarty said that as a veteran, he didn’t want to club to “pawn him off to the highest bidder.” He said he was grateful of how they took his desires into account, and was happy to be able to get to Nashville fairly easily.
McCarty talked about being frustrated with the lack of success in Chicago over the past two seasons. “I learned a lot about myself because our team didn’t have as much success as I had been used to in my previous stops.” He talked about how important the training field is to building success, especially as a first year club. “Once you establish a culture on the training field, it’s going to be a competitive group… The best teams I’ve played on, the competition for places in the team has to be at the highest level… Guys that are accountable are always going to be guys that want to get better.”
Romney talked about his experience in big games, including playoff games and El Traffico. He also mentioned his experience with some of the big names that the Galaxy have brought in. “I’ve seen how they operate on a day-to-day basis to maintain that level, and I’ve tried to model my day on that.” He spoke of wanting to bring that experience to Nashville and build a culture of working hard day in and day out, “taking the seriousness of how we competed for trophies in LA to Nashville.”
“Balance has always been a key quality and element in my mind,” said Smith. He spoke of both McCarty and Romney as part of the core and spine of the team. “Guys like Dax play with their heart on their sleeve. They’re individuals that guys on the other side don’t feel very comfortable running into for a number of reasons, whether that’s competitively or technically.” He noted that the central midfield area is key in dictating possessions, but noted that the entire team has to work together to create a cohesive whole. “It’s easy to look at the challenges you run into and capitulate. If we have a group of players that bring balance and the same type of mindset [as McCarty and Romney], we can’t go too far wrong.”