NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC have officially announced the departure of striker Aké Loba to Mexican club Mazatlán FC. Loba, 24, joins Mazatlán on loan, returning to Liga MX where the Ivorian striker had previous stints with Monterrey and Querétaro.
The deal includes an option to purchase before the end of the season, which would need to be triggered in order for Nashville to open up their third Designated Player spot.
Loba arrived in Nashville as a Designated Player in July 2021 on a club-record deal for a reported $6.8 million dollars. Removing Loba from the books was a major priority for Nashville in the offseason, and recouping any part of his $6.8 million transfer fee is not insignificant after Loba failed to make a meaningful impact on the field.
Since joining the Boys in Gold, Loba disappointed with inconsistent playing time. He scored only two goals in MLS play. In 2022, Loba made 21 league appearances and failed to start a single league match.
Offloading Loba was a priority for Nashville this offseason, but it doesn’t immediately open a Designated Player (DP) slot that could again be used to address the striker position. Finding a new DP forward will dominate transfer discussions around Nashville SC once again, with attacking help for 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar needed desperately. However, Nashville are limited until Loba is completely off the books, and will either need to get creative in the transfer market or settle for another season without a high-end striker.
The club first attempted to address the position in 2020 with a loan plus purchase option for Jhonder Cádiz. The Venezuelan delivered a few memorable moments in Nashville, but he could never dislodge C.J. Sapong from the starting lineup in the second half of the 2021 season. Loba was brought in that same year, but he also failed to ever break through with even less consistent outings.
Loba’s anonymous tenure in Nashville was made even more disappointing by the lack of production ahead of him. Other than Mukhtar, who has scored an astonishing 43 goals since Loba arrived in Nashville, the rest of the forwards have struggled to produce.
C.J. Sapong has been the every-match starter for a season-and-a-half, but scored just 16 goals in 61 games since Loba’s arrival. Teal Bunbury scored five in 17 games. Jhonder Cádiz scored once in 17 games. Ethan Zubak didn’t score in any of his 11 league appearances. A combined 22 goals in 106 games from players ahead of Loba on the depth chart is a testament to how little impact he had in Nashville.
Whenever Loba is permanently off the books, Nashville will finally have an open DP spot with which to work, and they desperately need to sign a striker who can elevate the team and contribute consistent goals. They’ve missed on their past two DP striker signings. They can’t afford to miss another.