How Rodrigo Piñeiro will fit in Nashville

Nashville SC have finally announced the signing of Rodrigo Piñeiro. The 21-year-old Uruguayan winger contributed three goals and four assists playing for a poor Danubio side last season, and should be an immediate fixture in Nashville’s core group of players.

The basics

Piñeiro is a pacey and direct player. Capable of playing on either wing or even as a 10, he’s a hard worker on both sides of the ball who is willing to take risks with aggressive passing in the final third. Sound familiar?

He’s similar to Randall Leal in a lot of ways, most prominently his work rate and willingness to try stuff. A more apt comparison, though, would be to LAFC’s Brian Rodríguez.

Nahuel Beau, who covers Uruguayan soccer for Migrantes Del Balon, says “He’s a very fast player, with good skills and capacity to win 1v1 duels against the defense. He is very active.” Beau says that Piñeiro is stylistically similar to Rodríguez, albeit without quite the same level of high-end potential.

While Leal is almost a 10 who plays on the wing, Piñeiro is a pure winger. He can play centrally if needed, but he’s best in wide areas. He has much more obvious pace than Leal, and while he can play centrally when needed, he likes to stay wide. You can see in the above highlight video how he hugs the touchline and waits for space to open up, before a quick switch of play finds him open.

He’s also really good at beating defenders on the dribble, a skill more similar to Hany Mukhtar than Leal. 5-9 and strong, he has a low center of gravity, and looks like a nightmare to take the ball from in traffic. He may not be as flashy as Mukhtar, but he’s really effective on the ball, and isn’t afraid to take a man on instead of laying the ball off to a teammate.

His ability to ride a challenge is impressive. In a league like MLS where physical challenges are the norm, his ability to maintain possession and stay on his feet despite hard tackles is a key feature of his skillset.

He’s very right-footed. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, improving his ability with his left foot would add another dimension to his game, as well as make him more effective on the right. Both he and Leal are heavily right-footed, as are Alex Muyl and Handwalla Bwana. This means that only one of Nashville’s wingers will be able to play “inverted”, or cut in on their preferred foot.

Piñeiro, Leal, Mukhtar and Cádiz are a front four of DP-level players. Adding Piñeiro on the wing opposite Leal will give Nashville more consistent goal threats from each flank, with solid options off the bench in Muyl, Bwana and Danladi. The outlook for 2021 is bright.

2021 outlook

Players from Uruguay have historically been very successful in MLS. Nicolás Lodeiro, Lucas Cavallini, Diego Rossi, Brian Rodríguez, and Mauricio Pereyra are just a few of the current names in MLS who were developed in Uruguay. Nashville have been intentional about targeting players from leagues that have translated well to MLS, and Piñeiro is no different.

With Hany Mukhtar the clear first choice at the 10 position, and Randall Leal able to slide centrally, Piñeiro gives Nashville even more depth on the wings, and the 21-year-old designated player should bring more production to the starting XI than we saw last season.

Upgrading to a more consistent goal threat was one of the biggest needs of the offseason, and one Nashville have been working on for a while. With Alex Muyl and Handwalla Bwana signed largely with 2021 in mind, Nashville’s winger group is much more robust than it was in 2020, and should be able to produce more end product in year two.

Muyl could be labelled a “defensive winger”, and while Bwana has plenty of talent, he’s still largely unproven. Piñeiro has been signed to immediately improve Nashville’s attacking output, and offers a unique skillset to anyone else in the squad. Contributing double digit goals (goals+assists) shouldn’t be an unreasonable expectation.


Stats*

Appearances: 80
Minutes: 4,726
Goals: 10
Assists: 7

Goals + assists/96: 0.34

*Stats per Transfermarkt

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