Nashville SC announced Wednesday the acquisition of Handwalla Bwana, a 21-year-old winger from the Seattle Sounders. In exchange, Seattle receive Jimmy Medranda plus $225,000 in General Allocation Money, plus an additional $25,000 in GAM if Bwana meets certain performance-based metrics.
“Handwalla is one of the exciting young attacking prospects in the league, and we feel very fortunate to be able to add him to our group,” said Mike Jacobs, Nashville SC General Manager. “His ability to threaten defenses both on and off the ball makes him a constant attacking presence, and his work rate on both sides of the ball make him a menace to play against.”
From the press release:
“Signed as a homegrown player on Jan. 11, 2018 by Seattle Sounders FC, Bwana joins Nashville after three seasons earning valuable minutes with his home club. He made his Major League Soccer debut on March 4, 2018, and since then, he has earned an MLS Cup in 2019, reached the MLS Cup playoffs in back to back seasons in 2018 and ‘19, and debuted at the international level in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League in a 1-0 victory over Chivas de Guadalajara.
“At the collegiate level, Bwana made 39 appearances at the University of Washington, recording 12 goals and 13 assists. Bwana earned All-Pac-12 Second Team and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. In his second year Bwana led the Huskies with eight goals and ranked second with six assists, earning All-Pac-12 First Team and All-Far West Region First Team selections.”
Handwalla Bwana will wear the no. 70 shirt for Nashville.
With Medranda gone, Nashville have traded both players they acquired as an unofficial package deal around the 2020 Expansion Draft. Nashville gave Sporting Kansas City $125k in GAM, $50k in TAM and a 2021 international spot in return for Adrian Zendejas, on the condition that Sporting would leave Medranda unprotected.
Nashville traded Zendejas to Minnesota United in September for a Fourth Round 2021 SuperDraft pick, and an additional $100k in GAM if Zendejas meets certain undisclosed performance metrics.
All said, Nashville spent a total of $400k in GAM (potentially up to $425k if Bwana meets the metrics) plus a 2021 international spot and the use of a 2020 Expansion Draft pick to get Handwalla Bwana and a possible $100k in GAM.
Bwana is a homegrown player, and he’ll occupy the 30th spot on Nashville’s roster, one that’s only eligible to homegrown players. He won’t take up a senior roster spot.
While Handwalla Bwana is unproven, there’s certainly a lot of potential. He signed a homegrown deal with the Sounders in 2018, after two years at the University of Washington. After signing with Seattle, Bwana spent time with both the first team and their USL affiliate (formerly Seattle Sounders 2, now Tacoma Defiance).
Despite playing just 205 minute in Seattle this year, he’s been productive, leading the team in expected goals + expected assists per 96 minutes. Unfortunately, he’s been stuck behind Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, with Miguel Ibarra the preferred backup option on the wings.
With David Accam missing significant chunks of time due to injury, Bwana could fill a similar role for Nashville. He’s creative and pacey, and likes to cut in from the left wing to isolate defenders one-v-one. He’s good on the ball, and fits the mold Mike Jacobs has referred to as a “vertical threat.”
Similarly to Seattle, Bwana will have competition in front of him to get on the field. Randall Leal, Alex Muyl, Hany Mukhtar and Abu Danladi have all played in a similar position, and should be preferred ahead of him at this point. This season, he’ll likely be one of the first attacking options off the bench. With the injuries Nashville have had to their offensive-minded players, having Bwana to bring on should be a boost.
While Jimmy Medranda is an exciting, dynamic player, he’s just not been healthy. With the depth of attacking options Seattle have at their disposal, they’re in a better position to take a chance on a player like Medranda.
Nashville, however, need someone who can be available and produce now. Bwana should immediately provide some quality off the bench, and at just 21 years old, could grow into a much larger role in a gold shirt.