Nashville SC have quietly been busy this offseason. After a successful expansion season featuring the best defense in MLS expansion history, the focus heading into year two has been more about adding goals.
Nashville’s struggles to score were well documented last year, with the new team’s 24 goals scored in the regular season the third-worst tally in the league. However, as Jacobs pointed out, that improved down the stretch. After DP striker Jhonder Cádiz’s debut on October 14, Nashville closed out the season eighth in the league goals per game and third in total goals scored.
“We’re very encouraged about what we built in year one, and the continuity we built as our season went on,” Nashville SC General Manager Jacobs told media on a conference call. “To think about having this group together for a full preseason is really exciting.”
Jacobs pointed out the similarities to Nashville’s approach to year two and how he built their side in the USL Championship. “The 2018 team was able to create chances but struggled to finish. We went into 2019 knowing that we had to find some capable attacking players who were going to be clinical finishers… I do feel really good about the fact that heading into season two, we’ve got the right kind of personal to not only create, but finish scoring chances.”
Nashville go into the 2021 season with many more options in attack than they did last year, and that’s by design.
“One thing Gary [Smith] always stresses to me is how critical he thinks competition is to get the best out of players. From his perspective, he’s never concerned about having a log jam of players,” said Jacobs. “We had to play three matches last year where we had no center forwards and were using players like Derrick Jones as a false nine.
“We went into this offseason making sure that we were not going to be in a situation ever again where we had a shortage of players in those roles, especially in the nine role. We feel really good about the fact that we’ve not only created some competition up front, but some depth there as well.”
The moves may not be finished for Nashville yet. Last year, Jacobs set the MLS world abuzz with the high-profile signing of center-back Walker Zimmerman just two weeks before the season began, and Nashville have acquired plenty of allocation money over the last year.
While Jacobs was coy on his plans leading up to the season, he noted “we have worked very hard in maintaining roster flexibility. Having open roster spots on our senior roster. Having open international spots. Having enough allocation money to put us in a position where, depending on what Gary’s needs are in preseason, whether it’s adding someone in the short term in the next month or two versus waiting until the summer window, we have the roster flexibility and the cap flexibility to add other players.”
As far as his expectations for what this Nashville team can do in the attacking end of the field, Jacobs opted not to throw around numbers.
“My expectation is that we’re going to create chances at no worse or the same level than we created in the last month of the  MLS season, which is really, really encouraging. Our expectation is to maintain those standards with more players in the fray who can create and finish those scoring chances.”
When asked about the focus of their roster build this offseason, Jacobs was blunt.
“Our goal was to never be in a situation where we struggle to score goals again.”