At long last, Nashville SC have their designated player striker. The expansion club announced the acquisition of Jhonder Cádiz on a year long loan from Benfica, with an option to purchase at any point during that period. General manager Mike Jacobs and head coach Gary Smith spoke to the media on Thursday after the signing was announced.
“Over the last year, obviously the 9 position is as important as you have in any team,” said Jacobs. “We really felt really excited about the fact that we got someone that we felt fit all of our needs that we were looking in that role. Acquiring a player on a one-year loan first gives us the best opportunity to assess his talent. The reality is not every deal works that way. I think we’re very fortunate. But the reality is, gun to my head, I’d always want a deal like what we got. Benfica has been a really good partner for us as far as being willing to work with us in this capacity.”
Cádiz’s move to Nashville is his second stint on loan since joining Benfica in Portugal. He has yet to make an appearance for the club, heading to Dijon in France shortly after signing with the Portuguese giants. After scoring twice and assisting twice in 791 minutes in France, Jacobs says Nashville were fortunate to land the player.
“We could only have gotten Jhonder if we did this deal now,” Jacobs pointed out. “The reality is, if we had waited until December or January, a player of Jhonder’s abilities wasn’t going to be available. He was in such high demand, they weren’t going to wait around for us three months to do a deal like this.”
Although Nashville were eager to get the deal done quickly, their search for a DP striker has gone on for over a year, with players like Aké Loba, Maxi Romero, Djordje Despotović and others considered. Cádiz is a player that Nashville have scouted at length.
“It’s not a decision that’s made overnight and that we’ve jumped on quickly and not explored very deeply,” noted Smith. “We’ve seen an awful lot of footage of this player. We’ve had contact with this player. We’ve looked into the background of this player, and Jhonder ticks a lot of boxes.”
“If you asked Gary if he wanted somebody who was either tall and good in the air, or really fast, he’d probably respond, ‘yes.’ He wants all of those things,” Jacobs added. “To have someone like Jhonder who has these unique athletic attributes that is strong and physically good in the air, but also has this breakneck pace, that makes him dangerous as threatening to get in behind. He really is the best of both worlds as far as a target player.”
Nashville’s attack needs a lift. Through ten matches, their five goals scored is the lowest in the league. Although they’re middle of the pack in chances created, finishing has been a struggle for the new club.
Both Jacobs and Smith, however, maintained that Cádiz wasn’t a “panic buy”, and that taking time to evaluate a DP striker before making a move was always part of the plan.
“For Gary and I to do our jobs really well, we can’t live in a world where it gets panicky on a game-to-game basis,” argued Jacobs. “I’m really proud that we’ve stuck to our guns as far as our plans, maintaining the integrity of what we wanted to do with our roster build. Obviously this signing of Jhonder comes at the right time, but it also kind of comes not just what our team maybe needs on the field today, but in kind of where we saw this all building out.”
Smith was optimistic that Cádiz can have an impact on the team this season, in an area that has needed help.
“With the opportunities I believe that the group are making, of course I believe he’ll make a difference. Just as importantly, I think he’ll bring more out of the individuals in the team. I think he’ll raise the bar, and really the expectation of our group internally. At the moment, yes it has been a problem, and I believe that one or two of the guys that we have are going to break out of this funk that they’re in.”
So when can fans of the Boys In Gold expect to see the new signing take the field?
“We have to assess him when he gets here,” said Smith. “Yes, want him involved and putting pressure on that front line and competing for a spot as quickly as possible. I think we also have to be sensible and make sure that he’s in the right physical place.”
Jacobs and Smith were obviously excited about their new signing, but Jacobs emphasized that Cádiz is the type of signing Nashville has always planned to make.
“Very rarely do you find players like [Cádiz] who are attainable, that you can go out and get. Even more so, players in their prime. The idea of bringing in 35-plus year-old player is based on things that they have done in the past. We try to pride ourselves on finding players in their prime, and identifying players and trying to bring them here based on what they’re going to do. We really kind of thought that he represented a lot of things that we’re looking for in our team, and really fit what Gary wants to do on the field.”
Smith, who has been more open recently about the need for a goalscorer, was simply excited to get to work with the newest signing.
“As soon as Jhonder is here and he’s able to get work in and to get moving again, we find ourselves with a body that I’m sure will lift not only the expectations of the front line, but will be a nice shot in the arm for everyone in the group.”
NOTE: Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.