Jacob Shaffelburg: 2023 report card

Next up in our report card series is Jacob Shaffelburg, who never quite reached the heights expected of him in 2023.

2023 Grade: B-

2023 by the numbers

Matches played: 39 (7th on Nashville SC)
Minutes played: 2,081 (13th on Nashville SC)
Goals: 4 (T-4 on Nashville SC)
Assists: 6 (3rd on Nashville SC)
Goal contributions per 96 minutes: 0.46 (3rd on Nashville SC)

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2023 in review

Despite a good start to the season, massive fan appreciation and an interesting t-shirt design, Jacob Shaffelburg 2023 was somewhat underwhelming. Admittedly, a good portion of these rankings is based on expectations set on players before the season. For Shaffelburg, the expectations were high, especially after a dynamic start to his time in Nashville in 2022.

The Canadian started the season brightly, scoring twice in Nashville’s first three matches. By the end of April, he had three goals in MLS play. Unfortunately, those were the last goals he’d score in the competition. In the following 824 MLS minutes, he was only good for one assist.

The end of 2022 and his great start to 2023 earned him a spot with the Canadian National Team during the Gold Cup. He played a part in three of Canada’s four games, becoming a regular fixture off the bench. He even scored his first international goal against the US to give Canada the lead in extra time. Unfortunately for the Canadians, the US would go on to win that game in penalties.

After his national team adventure, he returned to Nashville and played a big part in their Leagues Cup run, featuring in six (four starts) of the seven matches. He contributed with five assists and a goal and scored his penalty in the final.

Following the Leagues Cup, Shaffelburg struggled to find any consistency. To be fair, the entirety of Nashville’s attack struggled during that period. The fluidity of Nashville’s attack was completely gone, and his combinations with other attackers followed a similar trajectory.

While 2023 was not necessarily a step back for the 23-year-old, it’s hard to describe it as a step forward. On his day, Shaffelburg is one of the most dangerous and dynamic wingers in the league, but these stretches of un-productivity leave much to be desired. Shaffelburg still has his explosiveness, which gave the fans a glimpse of hope even in Nashville’s darkest times.

Looking forward

Shaffelburg signed a long term contract, keeping him in Nashville for a while. Considering his club situation is settled, his main focus will undoubtedly shift to the national team, especially with a possibility of a Copa America appearance. 

With that said, the best way to earn a callup to the national team is to perform well at club level. Shaffelburg will need to at least restore his early 2023 form if he wants a spot in Mauro Biello (interim) or the new manager’s Canada team.

It’s clear that Shaffelburg has the talent, what is not clear is whether he can perform consistently. With his style of play and position, he will very rarely get 90 minutes every match, that means he needs to impact the game with fewer chances.

Continuing his explosiveness and dribbling is a must for next season. Adding a consistent final product will elevate him from an average to an exceptional winger.

Moment of the season

Hany Mukhtar found Shaffelburg, who scored with an incredible finish to give Nashville the lead in the first half against CF Montréal. Also, a wild FIFA-inspired celebration.

Previous report cards:

Joe Willis (A-) | Dan Lovitz (A) | Lukas MacNaughton (A) | Jack Maher (A-) | Dax McCarty (B+) | Fafà Picault (A) | Randall Leal (D) | Sam Surridge (C+) | Hany Mukhtar (B-) | Ethan Zubak (D) | Teal Bunbury (C-)

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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