Joe Willis: 2023 report card

We’re starting off our season in review by looking at how each member of Nashville SC’s squad performed in 2023. We’re starting with goalkeeper Joe Willis, who once again was a stalwart in goal for the Boys In Gold.

2023 Grade: A-

2023 by the numbers

Matches played: 37 (10th on Nashville SC)
Minutes played: 3,712 (fourth on Nashville SC)
Saves made: 109 (fourth in MLS)
Clean sheets: 10 (fifth in MLS)
PSxG-GA: +3.8 (seventh in MLS)

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2023 in review

Willis was typically solid for Nashville. Consistently one of the more unheralded ‘keepers in MLS, he dealt well with a rotating center back corps in front of him to maintain his usual level in goal. While Nashville’s defense certainly limits the amount of high-quality chances he faced on a regular basis, he was more than adequate when called on.

Per post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed (a long-winded way of measuring goals saved), he kept almost four goals off the board for Nashville.

2023 was the first season he faced a real challenge to the starting job from Elliot Panicco, who used his Leagues Cup opportunity to launch a more substantial bid for the starting role, including nine starts across the season. By mid-September, though, Willis had firmly re-established himself as the starting option.

Nashville finished the 2023 season as the joint-best defense in MLS. From September through the end of the season, Willis didn’t allow more than a single goal per game.

Looking forward

All signs point to Willis maintaining his role in 2024. He’ll turn 36 mid-season, though, and will likely find himself in a battle with Panicco for the no. 1 role in preseason. He’s a known quantity for Nashville at this point, though, and with the defensive unit locked in, there’s no reason to expect his career-best stretch of form to drop off.

Moment of the season

Willis’s save to deny a dramatic bicycle-kick attempt from Columbus’s Cucho Hern├índez was certainly eye catching. It also launched a counter attack at the other end, resulting in a goal from Hany Mukhtar to clinch the win.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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