Mike Jacobs: “We’re primed and ready”

Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs spoke publicly for the first time in over a month yesterday following the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. In the month following Nashville’s roster decisions being made public, the Coyotes have made two high-profile moves, including signing free agent midfielder Sean Davis amid significant interest from around the league.

“Sean is someone obviously who’s really well thought of around the league,” said Jacobs. “We talk about an awful lot here about ‘the NSC DNA’. He has that in spades.”

“I think Sean fits in really, really well,” he added. “If I was going to look at guys we have right now, when you look at someone who has similar attributes to Dax [McCarty] on the field but with Aníbal [Godoy]’s athletic attributes, that’s frightening. To be able to pair him with some of these guys we’re talking about, it’s exciting to think about what someone like Sean possesses and what he can bring to this midfield and this group in general.”

The other high profile move was sending defender Alistair Johnston to CF Montréal for $1 million in General Allocation Money, the first instance of the club trading a fan-favorite away. For Jacobs, this was the other side of the coin of his oft-quoted “valuing the undervalued” philosophy. This was capitalizing on the overvalued.

“In our league it’s all about allocation money. We talked about a successful window and trying to tie down guys long term, to now have this kind of allocation money without losing one of the key guys in our core and that’s not to take anything away from Alistair, because I think a lot about him personally and certainly wish him well in his endeavors – for us to be able to add that kind of allocation money, to increase our warchest with the group of players we already have, it sets us up for a really encouraging spot for our third season.”

Johnston’s situation in particular was interesting for Nashville. He burst onto the scene in his rookie season, winning the starting right back job after just four games. His rapid ascent in Music City earned him a starting spot for the Canadian national team, where he played not as a right back, but as a right center back in a back three. He played in a more central role just four times in Nashville, with Jack Maher standing out as Nashville’s long-term option in the middle.

“Look, Alistair was a super popular player,” Jacobs reiterated. “He’s someone we wish the best of luck, not only in Montreal but going forward internationally. But we were actually hoping to upgrade at right back. I think we felt this last year, whether it’s quality of crosses, whether it’s more execution on that flank, it’s something that we wanted to try and improve on.”

Between trading Johnston and four international roster spots, Jacobs has accumulated a staggering $2 million in GAM this offseason, and he’s right. While losing Johnston was a bitter blow for the fanbase, it’s hard to argue that Nashville are worse because of the trade. Realistically, they now have the flexibility to upgrade, not just at right back, but across the roster.

Jacobs believes Nashville upgraded their roster in the SuperDraft, particularly at center back. He made use of their warchest by spending up to $175,000 in GAM to move up from the 26th pick to the 10th, where they added to their center back depth with Ahmed Longmire. His selection was in large part due to the work of two new members of Nashville SC’s scouting team, former MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara and former FC Cincinnati Technical Director Luke Sassano.

“We went to bed last night thinking about what would we have to do to move up and get the guy that we identified as our top choice, which was Longmire,” he said. “When you look at the job that Chance Meyers, our director of player personnel, and a couple of guys worked closely with him like Luke Sassano and Ike Opara, we very quickly felt like the best center back on the board that we were looking at was him.”

The selection was somewhat surprising, giving Nashville’s solid core of starting center backs, as well as their depth in Robert Castellanos and Josh Bauer. Depth will be even more important for Nashville this year, Jacobs noted. Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman will miss time with in a World Cup year, and Nashville are set to travel the most miles ever in an MLS season after moving to the Western Conference. Adding a player who they believe in as strongly as Longmire was vital.

“When we looked at who we would put together, we thought that having another guy with the pace he has and his ability to win balls in the air would be a good fit with that group. He’s a good player,” said Jacobs. “Passing he can certainly improve on; breaking lines and connection passes.I think whoever we play Ahmed with, whether it’s one of the three incumbents who played a lot last year, whether it’s someone like Robert Castellanos who we think a lot of also, we think that this move gives us the right kind of depth, whether we’re playing with two center backs or three center backs.”

With just 46 days to go before their 2022 season officially begins, Nashville have lofty goals for what is certain to be a grueling season.

“When it’s all said and done we’re going to travel more miles this season than any team in MLS history,” Jacobs noted wryly. “There are very few teams who get into the playoffs each of their first three seasons. Absolutely we aspire to be one of those very few number of teams who can join that group. To do that, we have to have the continued ascension of our guys.”

“If there are areas that we think we need to freshen up, and I would tell you very candidly that there’s not one area I’m worried about heading into preseason – I feel kind of good about the group we have, but knowing that if we feel we have to, we’re primed and ready to do so.”

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