As Nashville SC’s season has come to a close, I wanted to look back at some of the numbers and statistics that defined the season. These are all MLS regular season numbers. Playoffs and other competitions have not been included unless stated otherwise. The figures are collected from various outlets: American Soccer Analysis, FBref, Opta Analyst, and MLS Soccer.
On to the numbers…
0.4: Expected Goals v. ORL. The performance at home against Orlando City in Game 2 of the playoffs will leave a sour taste in a lot of mouths this offseason. Nashville barely generated any attack as they fell to the Lions. In a lot of ways, the match was emblematic of the attacking futility that plagued Nashville in the second half of the season.
0.9: Goals Against. Nashville conceded just 32 goals in 34 matches – tied for the best mark in MLS.
1: Final Played. Nashville advanced to and hosted their first final in club history. With the GOAT on the other side of the pitch and a host of celebrities in the stands, it was a star-studded affair at GEODIS Park. Even with the loss, it was a pinch-yourself type of moment to think how far soccer has come in Tennessee in such a short amount of time.
1: Homegrown Signing. Adem Sipic made club history becoming the first homegrown signing. The now 18-year-old striker possesses the physical profile to compete at the professional level and will join the senior roster starting next season.
1.21: Expected Goals Per Match. Nashville’s attack took a step back in 2023. The 1.21 xG per regular season match was the lowest for Gary Smith’s side since the inaugural season.
2: LigaMX Giants Slayed. While the Final will occupy lasting memories, Nashville’s dramatic victories over Club América and Monterrey will be what I remember. The ‘Yotes knocked out two of the biggest clubs in the Western Hemisphere. The América match, in particular, was peak Concacaf craziness. Sam Surridge scored a last-second goal and Las Águilas celebrated a penalty kick win with fans rushing the field only for a VAR review to disallow the goal ultimately leading to a Nashville win. NSC’s Leagues Cup run was bonkers.
2: Wins Post-Leagues Cup. Nashville’s form nosedived after Leagues Cup. The Boys in Gold only won 2 matches in the final two months of the season, posting an abysmal 2W-5D-2L down the stretch.
3: Best Selling MLS Jersey. Hany Mukhtar’s #10 jersey finished third among all MLS players in jerseys sold. Fueled by the wildly popular Men in Black kit and his status as the reigning MVP, Mukhtar was only eclipsed by newcomers Lionel Messi (Inter Miami) and João Klauss (St. Louis CITY).
3.40: Passes Per Sequence. Nashville played a bit slower and less direct in 2023. The reasons for that vary. Two of the contributing factors include that the Boys in Gold possessed the ball more this season in neutral game states and found themselves trailing more often.
3.8: Joe Willis’ PSxG +/- . My favorite statistic for measuring goalkeepers’ effectiveness. It takes the post-shot expected goals faced by the number of actual goals conceded. Based on this calculation, Willis saved 3.8 goals over expected over the course of the season. It was the 7th best mark in MLS and Willis’ best season since 2018.
4: Consecutive Years in Playoffs. NSC has qualified for the playoffs in each of their first four seasons. Only Chicago and Seattle can say the same.
6: Red Cards. Nashville lost their heads too often in 2023 finishing the year with six regular season red cards – tied with Chicago for the most in MLS.
6.4: Million Dollar Transfer Fee. In the second-largest transfer fee in club history, Nashville splashed some serious cash on Sam Surridge. The early returns have been largely positive, but Nashville will be expecting the English striker to kick it up a gear starting in 2024.
7: Eastern Conference Seed. Nashville had yet to finish that low on the table since their inaugural MLS season in 2020.
8: Mukhtar’s Consecutive Match Scoreless Streak. Hany Mukhtar went the final eight matches without scoring a goal. As Mukhtar goes, so goes Nashville.
9.9: Nashville’s Conversion Rate. Nashville converted 9.9% of their total shots taken, the 19th-best rate in MLS. Only three playoff teams finished with a lower conversion rate (Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls).
10: Collective Goals By Strikers. Across all competitions, the strikers (Bunbury, Surridge, Zubak, and Sapong) managed just 10 goals. It is the bare minimum production and left far too great of a burden on Mukhtar. If Nashville wants to take a step forward in 2024, Surridge needs to score double digits himself. Additionally, the front office must also look for a difference-maker off the bench this winter.
10.57: Average Carry Progress (Meters). Jacob Shaffelburg led the league in average progressive carry distance. The most electric moments this season often came when Nashville found the blistering Canadian in open space.
11: Penalty Kick Rounds. The Leagues Cup Final with Inter Miami lasted an incredible 11 rounds. Panicco’s miss left the Coyotes agonizingly close to their first-ever trophy.
12: Payroll Rank. Nashville spent an annual minimum of $16.9 million in player salaries in 2023, ranking 12th in MLS. Despite pronouncements that Nashville would feature among the top third in MLS spending, the club remains in the middle third in overall spending. However, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Four of the top five spenders failed to qualify for the playoffs. In a parity-driven league, it is more about how you spend your money than the amount you spend.
12.35: Expected Goals from Set Pieces. The ‘Yotes ranked second overall with 12.35 xG generated from set pieces. They managed to find the net just 8 times from that total. As a betting man, I would expect the actual goals figure to normalize and increase next season.
13: Weeks Until Soccer Returns: The offseason will come and go before you know it. With Nashville qualifying for continental competition for the first time in club history, their 2024 campaign will begin earlier than usual. The opening round of the Concacaf Champions Cup (the revamped version of the Concacaf Champions League) will begin either the week of Feb. 6 – 8 or Feb. 13 – 15.
17: Points Earned (Second Half). The back half of the season witnessed Nashville earn just 17 points from 17 matches. At 1.0 points per match, NSC would have tied Inter Miami for the third-worst record on the season.
32: Points Earned (First Half). The Coyotes came out firing in the first half of the season. At 1.88 points per match, Nashville would have finished only behind FC Cincinnati on the table had they kept that pace up for the entire year. The Jekyll & Hyde season defines 2023 for Nashville SC.
74: Tackles in the Attacking Third. NSC logged the 7th most tackles in the opponent’s third of the pitch. It is a stark departure from seasons past when Nashville finished last or near last in the same category. Especially early in the season, Gary Smith’s squad made a point of high-pressing teams to start a match. While it did not always result in a goal, Nashville displayed a ruthlessness in those moments that has gone missing since.
433: Shots Taken from Live-Ball Passes. Nashville finished second to last, only ahead of FC Dallas. It highlights NSC’s struggles with creating attacking opportunities from the run of play.
441 / 1123: Progressive Carries and Progressive Passes. The Boys in Gold ranked dead last in MLS in carries that progressed the ball vertically 10+ yards in the attacking half or into the penalty area. Moreover, they ranked second to last in progressive passes of the same nature. Heading into the offseason, Nashville must revamp its midfield with at least one ball progressor.
3,000+: Minutes Played. Five Nashville players Willis, Maher, Muktar, Lovitz, and Moore played more than 3,000 minutes in the MLS regular season. Among the outfielders, only 34 players across the league eclipsed this mark. It highlights the consistency of Nashville’s core, but also the need to rotate more to keep the team fresh down the stretch.
28,257: Average Attendance. 4th best in MLS and 1st among clubs not “sharing” a stadium with their NFL overlords. In MLS, Nashville averaged an impressive 93% capacity, and had six sellouts in all competitions. GEODIS Park is establishing itself as one of the best match-day environments in all of MLS.
Do you have another number or statistic that you think illuminates Nashville SC’s 2023 season? If so, drop a comment here or on our social media platforms and I will highlight it as well.