Nashville soccer is almost back. The MLS regular season is set to resume in August, and fans of the Boys In Gold will be able to watch their team play after a five month Covid-forced break.
In that light, we’re going to break down Nashville’s roster by position. Over the course of the next few days, we’ll look at NSC’s goalkeepers, defenders, holding midfielders, attacking midfielders, and forwards.
Nashville’s starting goalkeeper is Joe Willis. The 6’5″ 31-year-old shot stopper is an MLS veteran. Willis entered the league in the 2011 SuperDraft, signing with DC United. At DC, Willis largely played a backup role to Bill Hamid, and only managed 23 appearances in his four years at United.
Willis was traded to Houston Dynamo ahead of the 2015 season. In Houston, Willis drifted in and out of the starting role, battling with Tyler Deric for the job.
In Willis, Nashville have a reliable, if unspectacular goalie. He’s been consistently in the middle of the pack in terms of shot stopping since he entered the league.
In fairness to Willis, he’s never had the benefit of a really strong defense ahead of him. He has that in Nashville. In Nashville’s first two matches, they conceded three goals. None of them can be blamed on Willis. He may not be one of the league’s best ‘keepers, but he won’t cost Nashville many games. In a league where expansion teams concede like sieves, Willis is a pretty safe option to get them through their first year or two.
Waiting in the wings behind Willis is Adrián Zendejas. Zendejas was acquired from Sporting KC, where he was the backup to Tim Melia, one of the league’s best. Zendejas spent most of his time for Sporting’s reserve side in USL, where he showed his potential to succeed at the next level.
Zendejas is an above average ‘keeper with the ball at his feet, and could be a foundational piece for a more possession-based side. At just 24, he has a lot of years ahead of him at a high level, but could challenge Willis for the starting role sooner rather than later. Nashville’s staff view him as the goalkeeper of the future, and he’s been on the fringes of being an MLS starter for a couple years. He may not win the job this season, but don’t expect him to be on the bench for long.
Rounding out Nashville’s corps is Elliot Panicco, a 2020 SuperDraft pick out of UNC Charlotte. Panicco was a four year starter for the 49ers, making 77 appearances and winning the Conference USA Golden Glove as a junior. Panicco likely won’t be called on to play for Nashville this season, but is a good locker room presence and a reliable third-choice option. A loan to USL seems likely down the road to give him more minutes and aid his development.
Look out for our profile on Nashville SC’s defenders out tomorrow.