Next up in our 2020 Nashville SC report card series is striker Dom Badji.
Matches played: 12
Minutes played: 788
Goals added: -0.08 (42nd among MLS strikers)
xG+xA: 3.38 (43rd among MLS strikers)
Average Speedway Soccer rating: 6.5
Average WhoScored rating: 6.3
What went right in 2020?
Badji was signed for up to $400k in allocation money from FC Dallas, as the most veteran name on the roster. He began the 2020 season as the first choice option, and appeared in the club’s first 12 matches, 10 of which he started.
Badji was an early part of Nashville’s efforts to press, leading the line defensively from the get-go.
His workrate on both sides of the ball was never in question. Badji ran tirelessly, constantly looking to open up the defense even when Nashville struggled to get him the ball in the final third. He’s a strong holdup player as well, which became an asset as he typically received the ball in isolation.
Badji tallied his only goal and assist in Nashville’s 4-2 win over Atlanta United in September.
What went wrong in 2020?
Badji was in part the victim of Nashville’s early struggles to score. The attack tended to break down before it got into a dangerous area. Part of this was poorly played passes on the part of other attackers, and part of it was poor runs from Badji. Regardless, he struggled to get involved early on.
Meanwhile Dom Badji has been the least involved center forward through two weeks. There may be other issues, but Nashville have struggled to get Badji involved. #EveryoneN pic.twitter.com/0DBNE6IT63— Ben Wright (@benwright) March 10, 2020
A middle-of-the-pack finisher pre-Nashville, Badji wasn’t able to churn out that level of production in 2020. Managing just 18 shots in nearly 18 minutes, he couldn’t answer the questions asked of the forward group early on. Badji suffered a hamstring injury in late September that kept him out for the remained of the season.
Ironically, Badji’s absence coincided with Nashville solving some of their goal-scoring issues. This may well be correlation and not causation, but the fact of the matter is that Daniel Ríos put out near-elite numbers when he was on the field, while Nashville made a sizeable investment in Jhonder Cádiz.
Badji may have improved along with the rest of the squad, but Nashville certainly found more success with others up front.
What needs to improve in 2021?
Nashville’s forward pool looks much different than it did this time last year. Ríos has emerged as a legitimate option behind Cádiz, and they’ve added CJ Sapong, a proven MLS goalscorer, to bring depth and competition. With those three likely getting the bulk of minutes going forward, it’s hard to see a clear path to playing time for Badji.
If Badji stays in Nashville, he’ll likely need to be content with reduced minutes. Nashville may well look to move him, although they’ll want to recoup a good chunk of the $400k they spent on him. It may not happen until the secondary transfer window, but if they get an offer, Nashville probably won’t say no.
Most memorable moment
Badji’s lone goal last season kick-started one of Nashville’s most impressive displays, tapping in from close range after a really well-worked set piece routine.