After a bit of a break, we’re continuing our Nashville SC report cards with a look at winger Randall Leal.
Position: Winger / attacking midfielder
Matches played: 24
Minutes played: 1,980
Goals added: -0.45 (113th among MLS wingers)
xG+xA: 5.37 (32nd among MLS wingers)
Average Speedway Soccer rating: 7.3
Average WhoScored rating: 7.1
What went right in 2020?
One of two Designated Players on Nashville’s roster to start the season, expectations were high for Leal going into 2020. After a slow start, Leal really took the main creative burden of the team down the stretch, largely while Hany Mukhtar was out with injury. In the final eight matches of the season, Leal combined for six goals.
One of the more aggressive players in the squad, Leal was never afraid to shoot. In fact, towards the start of the season he often chose to shoot when a pass would have been a better option. However, with Nashville’s struggles to score goals, Leal gave them an edge and an unpredictability in the final third.
Largely playing on the left, Leal tended to cut inside and operate in the half-spaces. This was a great compliment to Dan Lovitz’s overlapping runs, and it let Mukhtar have more of a free role. Leal also filled in as the 10 in Mukhtar’s absence, and was really effective in a central role.
Leal’s workrate on both sides of the ball was impressive, to say the least. He ran himself into the ground every time he was on the field, and tracked back diligently out of possession.
What went wrong in 2020?
Leal, like the rest of Nashville’s attack, started really slowly. He didn’t find the scoresheet until his sixth match, and then went another seven matches without a goal or assist.
In fairness to Leal, the entire team struggled to produce in the final third. Additionally, the Covid-wreaked havoc made his adaptation to MLS even more difficult than usual.
What needs to improve in 2021?
Consistency. And given how he closed out the year, all signs point to him having found his footing. With a full preseason and a more regular calendar (fingers crossed with the CBA negotiations), his 2021 should look more like the second half of 2020 than the first.
Leal was able to play on both the left and right wing, an ability which should allow Rodrigo Piñeiro to acclimate quickly. Having Jhonder Cádiz as a target striker from the start should help his assists tally.
Nashville have clearly found a quality player in Leal, and they’ll look to build around him for the next several seasons. With more quality around him and a more typical-looking season, expect more consistent performances going forward.
Most memorable moment
His stunner to open the scoring in Nashville’s 3-0 playoff win over Miami was something special.