Next up in our 2020 Nashville SC report card series is striker Daniel Ríos.
Matches played: 21
Minutes played: 902
Goals added: 0.38 (19th among MLS strikers)
xG+xA: 6.86 (18th among MLS strikers)
Average Speedway Soccer rating: 6.9
Average WhoScored rating: 6.4
What went right in 2020?
The first MLS signing in Nashville’s history, Ríos came into the season in strong form after becoming the first USL player to score 20 goals in consecutive seasons the year prior.
Ríos started the season as Nashville’s second choice striker behind Dom Badji, and got his first start in their return to play in a 1-0 win over FC Dallas. He largely played a substitute role until mid-September, when he appeared to win the starting job before an injury kept him out for four matches.
When healthy, Ríos appeared in all but one match. On the field, he posted near-elite levels. His five goals tied Hany Mukhtar for the team lead, and his xG+xA per 96 minutes were third among MLS strikers. According to American Soccer Analysis’s “goals added” model, he was Nashville’s best player by a long shot.
When he played, he was an upgrade to Nashville’s early season finishing issues, and linked play really well. He finished the season strong, scoring five goals in his final 10 matches. Heading into 2021, there’s a lot to like.
What went wrong in 2020?
Ríos couldn’t win the starting job to begin the year. Minor injuries hampered him a bit through preseason, and it took him a while to find his form. Like the rest of Nashville’s attack, he started slowly, taking 11 matches to find the net.
The biggest knock on Ríos’s 2020 season was his limited minutes. With the struggles of the rest of Nashville’s forward group, he should have seen the field more than he did. However, niggling injuries often limited him to substitute appearances, and a more significant hamstring injury knocked him out for four matches.
What needs to improve in 2021?
Jhonder Cádiz is Nashville’s DP striker, and he’ll have every chance to start this season. Right now it looks like Ríos will start the season as the second choice striker, and will compete for minutes with MLS veteran CJ Sapong.
Playing as a Christian Ramirez-type forward, an occasional starter and a reliable option off the bench, seems like a fitting role for Ríos, who certainly has the potential to grow into more. With hopefully improving service around him, he should be able to do what he does best; score goals.
If he’s able to stay more consistently healthy and notch around 1,700 minutes, continuing his average of a goal every other match, his 2021 season should be a success.
Most memorable moment
Ríos has a couple to choose from. His extra time winner over Toronto FC will certainly be remembered by fans for years to come, but his solo goal against FC Dallas was one of Nashville’s more spectacular moments of the season.