Major League Soccer’s secondary transfer window officially opens tomorrow morning. Aligning with the European summer window, this is the primary window around the globe for clubs to buy and sell players (don’t tell Tiotal Football I used the term “buy and sell”).
Nashville SC and MLS have targeted the summer window as their primary opportunity to add top class talent. Nashville, specifically, have made their biggest moves in the summer window, with their last two Designated Players (DPs) (Jhonder Cádiz and Aké Loba) signed during the summer.
If you’ve followed the buzz around the Coyotes at all, you’ll know that they have both the need and the flexibility to sign a DP. They agreed to a contract termination with Loba, their $6.8 million club-record signing, as well as acquiring an international roster spot.
Moves are incoming. Here’s what Nashville should prioritize before the window ends on August 2.
Sign a DP striker
This one is obvious, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. Nashville have had just 13 goals in 6,039 minutes from non-Hany Mukhtar strikers since the start of 2022. That’s one goal every five-ish games. Not great.
General Manager Mike Jacobs and his staff have known this was a need since the club began, and they’ve tried to address it twice, signing Cádiz in 2020 and Loba in 2021. They need to get it right on the third try to take this team to a new level.
We’ve compiled a list of potential options for Nashville, strikers who fit their profile and could make financial sense. It’s almost a guarantee they’ll announce a DP striker this summer, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t made official early in the window.
Add a U22 midfielder
Nashville have one U22 Initiative slot open (if you’re unsure what that is, these essentially function as DPs, with age restrictions – full details here). If their forward signing qualifies as a Young DP, they would get a total of three U22 spots.
With midfielders Dax McCarty (36), Aníbal Godoy (33), Ján Greguš (32) and Sean Davis (30) all 30 or over, Nashville’s midfield is anything but young. And while Alex Muyl has reinvented himself as a shuttler in their new 4-1-2-1-2 system, they could use a young, dynamic, ball-progressing midfielder. This would both improve their quality on the ball and give them a longer-term solution in midfield.
Find a young holding midfielder to develop for the future
Like I said above, Nashville’s midfield isn’t young. Dax McCarty has been vital at the base of the diamond, possessing a much more dynamic passing range than any other option on Nashville’s roster. But he’s 36. And no one can play forever.
Nashville could take advantage of Huntsville City FC, and use their MLS NEXT Pro team to add a younger, international no. 6. There are looser roster restrictions in NEXT Pro, and Nashville could essentially sign a higher-value midfielder and park them in Huntsville until next season, allowing them to clear the transfer fee off the books to hit their MLS roster next year at a lower budget charge, avoid taking up an international roster spot in 2023, and adjust to a new team by training with Nashville during the week and playing real minutes every weekend.
Acquire a backup right back from inside MLS
With Eric Miller’s departure as a free agent this offseason, Nashville don’t have natural right back behind Shaq Moore. Alex Muyl and Laurence Wyke have both provided cover on occasion, but Muyl is more suited further forward up the pitch and Wyke is more comfortable in the center.
Nashville could trade for a backup right back for a moderate sum of General Allocation Money to add depth and cover in case of injury, as well as giving Moore some relief from playing 90 minutes every week
Luxury signing: TAM forward
If Nashville wanted to get super ambitious, they could add a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM)-level forward to their roster to compliment a DP. This is a player who would be over the max budget charge, but in the range to be bought down with TAM, allowing Nashville to look outside MLS at either a free-agent option or a player available for a lower transfer fee.
Adding a TAM forward would give Nashville a much-needed goalscoring threat from the bench. Teal Bunbury could potentially play this role with a DP forward in the starting role, but while he’s been valuable to Nashville, he hasn’t been prolific. Ethan Zubak hasn’t been able to break into the rotation, scoring just twice in 728 minutes in all competitions. Gary Smith has often opted to play others out of position rather than turn to Zubak, opening up the possibility of a move out of Nashville.
Adding not just a DP striker but a TAM forward as well would be a huge signal of intent from Nashville, who are just six points behind FC Cincinnati in the Supporters’ Shield race and an MLS Cup contender.
It remains to be seen how ambitious Nashville will be in the summer window. They’ve been hesitant in the past to bring in too many new players at once and interrupt their core, and they’ve bene one of the top sides in MLS as is. But signing 2-3 high quality options could take them from really good to great, and would help them capitalize on their window.
Teams don’t often simultaneously have the best attacker in the league and the best defense in the league. Windows to compete for trophies don’t last forever. Sometimes it pays to swing big.