Ranking the top available free agents for Nashville SC

Major League Soccer free agency kicks off on Thursday, December 13. Teams around the league can negotiate with out of contract players, provided they are at least 24 years old with at least five years of service in MLS.

Nashville SC have been active in the free agent market in the past, signing core players like C.J. Sapong and Sean Davis. With an exciting crop of free agents available, here are the best fits for Nashville SC.

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1. Julian Gressel – midfielder/wingback

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Nashville have had previous interest in Gressel, coming close to signing the German-born U.S. international last year before bringing in Shaq Moore. Gressel, 29, just won MLS Cup with Columbus Crew after joining from Vancouver Whitecaps in a midseason trade.

Gressel is a versatile player, able to play centrally but more comfortable in a wide role, where he’s best able to utilize his skillset as one of the best crossers MLS has seen. With Nashville needing to upgrade their service to DP forward Sam Surridge, Gressel is an intriguing name.

Even with Moore nailing down the right back spot, Gressel could play centrally, or more likely, slot in on Nashville’s right wing, where he’d fill a massive void in Nashville’s playmaking and have Moore behind him to do the defensive work.

Gressel will be in high demand, but if Nashville can beat the rest of the Eastern Conference to sign him, it would be their most high-profile signing from inside MLS since grabbing Walker Zimmerman from LAFC.

2. Omir Fernandez – attacking midfielder/winger

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Omir Fernandez is arguably the most exciting young attacker on the market.

Just 24-year-old, the New York Red Bulls product has already played 117 matches in MLS, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in that span. Most recently, Fernandez contributed six goals and four assists for the Red Bulls in just under 1,800 minutes in 2023.

Able to play behind the striker, but most dangerous as a winger, Fernandez was in the top 20 of American Soccer Analysis‘s G+ metric for wingers in 2023, and his 8.07 xG+xA in 2023 was more than every Nashville player besides Hany Mukhtar.

Nashville already have an existing pipeline with New York Red Bulls, offering Fernandez an easier transition to come play with former teammates Alex Muyl, Sean Davis and Dru Yearwood. He’d immediately improve their attack and would push Jacob Shaffelburg and Randall Leal for starting minutes, providing a desperately needed creative spark.

There’s a strong case to be made that Omir Fernandez should be Nashville SC’s top priority in free agency this winter.

3. Kellyn Acosta – central midfielder

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28-year-old Kellyn Acosta would be an ideal fit for Nashville SC’s midfield. Currently with LAFC, Acosta has been a core part of the U.S. men’s national team for the last seven years, playing at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

A product of the FC Dallas youth academy, Acosta has been one of the premier midfielders in MLS during stints with Dallas, Colorado Rapids, and most recently LAFC. Acosta has long expressed a desire to go to Europe, though, and was publicly frustrated with Colorado for trading him to LAFC instead of listening to offers from abroad.

Acosta’s form has fallen off a bit in recent years, but still played an important role for one of the best teams in MLS and has the box-to-box and ball-progressing ability Nashville need desperately. An in-prime U.S. international, he won’t be cheap, and would take a lot of convincing to stay in MLS now that he finally has the freedom to explore an unhindered move to Europe.

Were Nashville able to pull off the move, though, it would be one of their biggest gets yet in MLS.

4. Wil Trapp – midfielder

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Trapp is one of the more interesting midfielders available in free agency. A product of the Columbus Crew academy, he spent six seasons in Ohio, becoming the youngest captain in MLS at just 21 years old. Since then, he’s spent stints with Inter Miami (2020) and Minnesota United (2021-2023), where he’s still in negotiations over a new deal.

Trapp is the most similar player to Dax McCarty available in free agency. He’s a strong passer of the ball, able to similar quick diagonals and third-line passes that characterized McCarty’s play in midfield.

Per American Soccer Analysis, he’s been one of the most valuable passers of the ball from a defensive midfield role in MLS, up there with the likes of Michael Bradley, João Paolo, Gastón Brugman and Héctor Herrera over the last three seasons. He’d immediately fix many of the issues Nashville have had in the middle of the park.

He’ll turn 31 before the season starts, but has been consistently injury-free throughout his career. He may end up re-signing with Minnesota, but is an intriguing option for Nashville to explore.

5. Danny Musovski – forward

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Danny Musovski would be an intriguing pickup for Nashville SC.

The 28-year-old forward started in the lower levels of American soccer, before getting his MLS breakthrough with LAFC in 2020. Between stints with LAFC and Real Salt Lake, he’s scored 16 goals and assisted nine in just over 3,000 minutes, for an average of 0.77 g+a per 96 minutes played.

In 2023, Musovski spent the first part of the season as the starting striker for Real Salt Lake, before the signing of Chicho Arrango and his contract holdout limited his playing time down the stretch.

He’s a much more direct runner than Nashville’s current forwards, able to on the back shoulder and looking to get in behind the defense, as well as poaching a bit in the box.

Musovski made just $98,687 in Salt Lake last season. While his contract holdout made it clear that he’s looking for more, he’s still an affordable, budget-friendly depth option that can provide starting quality minutes as well as relief off the bench. It’s the type of move Nashville should be looking to make with a packed 2024 schedule.

6. Kai Wagner – left back

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Kai Wagner has been the single best left back in MLS over the last several seasons, and Philadelphia Union’s refusal to agree with him on contract terms has been mystifying.

Wagner made $700,000 last season and would require a raise that puts him towards the top of Nashville’s budget charge. He also should have interest from around Europe, and comes with the baggage of his suspension for using racist language against Bobby Wood in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

There are reasons for Nashville to look elsewhere, including the reliable Dan Lovitz holding down their left-back spot. Signing Wagner might not make the most sense with the cost and their current squad, but he’d be a significant upgrade to Nashville’s attacking production in free agency without sacrificing any defensive solidity.

7. Romell Quioto – forward/winger

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Romell Quioto would be a high-risk, moderately high-reward signing.

The 32-year-old Honduran international saw his playing time limited with injury in 2023, but still managed three goals and an assist in under 800 minutes. He was a productive attacker in his three seasons with Houston before taking a step forward at CF Montréal, scoring 34 goals and assisting 19 in 81 matches.

Since 2020, only three strikers have put up better xG+xA numbers than Quioto; Hany Mukhtar, Taty Castellanos, and Jesús Ferreira. His upside and production track record are impressive, but his issues with injury and availability are a red flag.

Quioto made $1,035,000 in guaranteed compensation last year, which would make him the fifth-highest paid player on Nashville’s roster. They aren’t likely to offer that type of salary to an injury-prone attacker in his mid-30s, but if they could agree to a reduced salary, he’d be an upgrade behind Sam Surridge and could provide much-needed secondary scoring.

8. Júnior Moreno – midfielder

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Junior Moreno was a standout for FC Cincinnati during their Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign in 2023.

The 30-year-old Venezuelan international scored four goals and added two assists for Cincinnati in a box-to-box midfield role. Since joining D.C. United in 2017, Moreno has amassed 161 MLS appearances. He’s been a consistent producer in midfield, safe with the ball and able to break up play defensively.

He’s not the ball progresser Nashville so badly need, though, more akin to Sean Davis than Dax McCarty. And after making nearly $400,000 last season, he’s likely looking for a higher contract with several years guaranteed. He’s an interesting option, but one that doesn’t make a ton of sense for Nashville.

9. Jack Price – midfielder

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The former Colorado Rapids captain is coming off a torn achilles that saw him miss virtually all of the 2023 season. He left Colorado with frustration at a seemingly low renewal offer, and is currently rehabbing in England, where he seems set to continue his career.

However, Price has left the door open to an MLS return, where he has been one of the most consistent deep-lying midfielder since he joined from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2018.

In 125 MLS matches, Price has notched an impressive 35 assists, running the show from midfield and accentuating his role with exceptional set-piece service. Since 2018, no defensive midfielder has created more expected assists, according to American Soccer Analysis.

Signing Price is a long shot, certainly, but would give Nashville a much-needed on-ball upgrade in midfield.

Other names to consider…

10. Diego Rubio – forward

Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs is familiar with Rubio, helping to sign him as a Designated Player with Sporting KC in 2016.

Rubio has 55 goals and 35 assists in 171 MLS matches with Sporting and Colorado Rapids. While injuries have limited his ceiling in recent years, he’s been generally productive when on the field and offers more positional versatility than Nashville currently have from their forwards. If Nashville could agree to a deal for less than the $714,000 he made in 2023, he’d be an enticing option.

11. Kei Kamara – forward

Kamara is 39, but consistently manages to be goal dangerous and available, scoring five goals in 1,500 minutes with Chicago Fire this season. He may be somewhat redundant for Nashville, occupying a similar role and profile as Teal Bunbury, but has a proven track record of scoring. That’s something Nashville need badly.

12. Maxi Urruti – forward

A 32-year-old journeyman forward, Urruti has scored goals all around MLS. In stops with Toronto FC, Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, CF Montréal, Houston Dynamo and Austin FC, Urruti has wracked up 72 goals and 39 assists in 308 matches.

He’s not going to come in and win the starting job, but he provides the type of hard-nosed defensive effort and field-stretching work rate Gary Smith loves. He made over $700,000 last season, though, and would certainly need to take a significant pay cut for Nashville to be interested.

Who would you like to see Nashville SC sign in free agency? Let us know in the comments.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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