After another break, we’re continuing our Nashville SC report cards with a look at winger Randall Leal.
Position: Attacking midfielder / forward
Matches played: 21
Minutes played: 1,080
Goals added: -0.76 (27th among MLS attacking midfielders)
xG+xA: 2.15 (24th among MLS attacking midfielders)
Average Speedway Soccer rating: 6.8
Average WhoScored rating: 6.5
What went right in 2020?
Jones saw plenty of playing time in 2020, appearing in all but five of Nashville’s matches. Traditionally a no. 8 or even a no. 6, Jones saw most of his action as a no. 10, filling in for Hany Mukhtar on numerous occasions, or coming off the bench to provide a more physical presence.
Jones was a wildcard for Nashville and clearly showed high-level talent. Although he’s 6-4, his touch and ability on the ball is impressive, even for a player with a lower center of gravity. He’s strong, good in tight spaces, and is able to maintain possession despite challenges from defenders.
What went wrong in 2020?
Despite consistently getting on the field, Jones wasn’t able to provide much end product. In fairness, he was played out of position more often then not. Due to injuries, he filled in on the wings or even as a lone striker for a stretch.
Jones takes a lot of risks with his passing, and more often than not they don’t pay off. With more assured passers in central midfield like Dax McCarty, Aníbal Godoy and Brian Anunga, Gary Smith preferred to use Jones further forward, perhaps to mitigate those turnovers by keeping them farther away from Nashville’s goal.
Jones has plenty of talent and potential. That’s never been the issue. The end product wasn’t there, and there wasn’t a natural fit for him in Gary Smith’s system.
What needs to improve in 2021?
Nashville traded Jones to Houston Dynamo for $250,000 GAM earlier this offseason. Head coach Tab Ramos is familiar with him from the US youth national teams, and he may have a chance to play in his more natural position in Houston’s 4-3-3 setup.