NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith confirmed on Thursday that newly-signed Designated Player Sam Surridge won’t be involved in Friday’s Leagues Cup match against FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium.
“He had his first training session with the group yesterday and looked very bright,” Smith told media ahead of Thursday’s training session. “At this point, I’m not planning on including him due to his lack of football in our training sessions so to speak and his relationship with the players.”
With Teal Bunbury suspended after his sending off against Toluca, Nashville’s options at forward are thin. Ethan Zubak is the only natural no. 9 in the squad, and while Smith has traditionally hesitated to play without a target man, he’s been more willing to play a frontline without one this season. Hany Mukhtar has played as a false nine at times this year, playing underneath Jacob Shaffelburg and Fafà Picault at others.
Smith has also traditionally been cautious with integrating new signings into the squad, citing injury concerns with his decision on Surridge.
“More importantly, not putting him at too much risk,” he said. “We’ll see how this game goes on Friday. But I would think probably from Saturday onwards, we’re going to see an awful lot more work with Sam and I look forward to have him in the group and affecting the group an awful lot more.”
On one hand, it makes sense to keep Surridge out after just two training sessions in Nashville. He’s still in preseason, and was held out of full training with Nottingham Forest while his transfer to Nashville was finalized. Nashville don’t want to risk putting him on the field before he’s ready and injuring him, given the importance of his signing and their need for goals down the stretch in MLS.
On the other hand, though, there’s impatience among fans to see him on the field, especially given how quickly other signings around the league have been involved.
It’s unfortunate that travel and visa issues delayed his arrival in Nashville. While other summer signings around the league have been able to get on the field and adapt to their teams during the Leagues Cup break, it’s looking less and less likely that Surridge will have the same benefit. Should Nashville lose tomorrow, they’ll have 16 days before they resume the MLS regular season.
Nashville have had a history of getting DP forwards involved slowly. Jhonder Cádiz, also delayed by visa issues, wasn’t in the squad for six matches after his signing was announced and didn’t play for three matches after he arrived in Nashville. Similarly, Aké Loba wasn’t in the squad for two matches after he began training, and didn’t make his first start for five matches.
Nashville are banking on improved production from Surridge in their final 10 regular-season matches as they push for a top-four finish and a hosting rights in the MLS Cup Playoffs.