Tuesday’s injury report dropped a bombshell for Nashville SC. Defenders Jack Maher and Dan Lovitz have entered MLS’s health and safety protocols and will miss their Wednesday trip to reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew. No additional information was released by the club, but the league’s protocols “build on the COVID-19 prevention, screening, and monitoring efforts implemented last year” and give specific prevention and containment measures. The full list of protocols can be found here.
Lovitz has played 99% of possible minutes this season, and has been one of the league’s standout performers through 13 matches. The 29-year-old leftback is fourth in MLS with 31 key passes and second in American Soccer Analysis’s passing goals added metric. He’s been a vital part of Nashville’s resurgent attack.
Maher, 21, has been a fixture in the starting lineup since he was recalled from his loan to San Diego Loyal in the USL Championship. The centerback has played 438 minutes, and has been an important replacement for reigning MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman, who’s currently with the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup.
The news leaves Nashville without Lovitz, Maher, Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston, four first-choice defensive options. Dave Romney has played every minute for Nashville in MLS, and will likely be partnered by veteran Jalil Anibaba, who’s started the last two matches. Dylan Nealis got his first start for Nashville against Chicago, and seems likely to start on the right.
On the left side, Taylor Washington is in his fourth season under Gary Smith. He’s played the majority of his 506 MLS minutes in a more advanced role on the wing. However, he was a stalwart at leftback at the USL Championship level, and with Nick Hinds on loan, he’s the only natural left-sided defender in the squad.
Eric Miller was named to the bench against Chicago, and Robert Castellanos was one of the squad alternates. Given the lack of options, both are likely to feature in the matchday squad tomorrow.
Without knowing the specifics of their situations (and the club will almost certainly not release specifics), it’s hard to know exactly how long the pair will be absent. The protocols call for a 14 day quarantine period for high risk behavior and high risk close contacts, but based on individuals vaccination status and testing results, the period can potentially be reduced to five days. Depending on their situations and when they entered the protocols, it’s possible they could return ahead of Saturday’s match against FC Cincinnati.
Obviously, the most important factor is far and away the health of the players. Hopefully both players remain healthy, safe and complication-free, and are able to return as soon as possible.