Scouting potential striker targets for Nashville SC

The MLS transfer window opens in just over a month. This is the primary time for teams around the globe to add top-tier players. After mutually parting ways with Aké Loba, their club record signing, Nashville have the need and flexibility to sign another attacker in the summer window when it opens on July 5.

So where do top-level MLS goal scorers come from? The short answer is all over the world.

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Without repeating a league, here are just some of the foreign signings in recent years made by MLS clubs. 

  • Denis Bouanga – St. Etienne (French Ligue 1) – $5.0m
  • Taty Castellanos – Torque (Uruguayan Primera División) – $450k
  • Hany Mukhtar – Brøndby IF (Danish SuperLiga) -$2.9m
  • João Klauss – Sint Truiden (Belgian Pro League) – $3.5m
  • Cristian Arango – Millinarios (Categoría Primera A) – $2.42m
  • Cucho Hernandez – Watford – (English Premier League) – $10.1m
  • Federico Bernardeschi – Juventus (Serie A) – free transfer
  • Thiago Almada – Vélez Sarsfield (Argentina Primera División) – $15.5m
  • Adam Buksa – Pogoń Szczecin (Poland Ekstraklasa) – $4.48m
  • Brenner – São Paulo FC (Brasileiro Série A) – $12.62m
  • Georgios Giakoumakis – Celtic (Scottish Premier League) – $4.26m
  • Raúl Ruidíaz – Morelia (Liga MX) – $6.78m
  • Dániel Gazdag – Honvéd (Hungarian NB I) – $1.75m
  • Chicharito – Sevilla (Spanish La Liga) -$9.12m
  • Sebastián Driussi – Zenit St. Petersburg (Russian Premier League) – $6.83m

Ahead of the transfer window, Chris Ivey and myself (Ben Wright) have compiled a list of strikers in several categories we think could be interesting targets for Nashville. We’re not professional scouts or general managers, but it’s an interesting exercise to try and gauge what profile of player Nashville will target.

A couple things to note before we start.

  1. The transfer values are taken from Transfermarkt, These are estimations with varying degrees of accuracy, and don’t include other potential considerations like salary, length of contract, etc.
  2. We’ve generally gone for a consistent profile of player that Nashville has targeted before: younger, less high-profile players, generally from South America or non-top 5 leagues in Europe. Nashville have also been intentional about signing players who will fit with the locker room culture, so we have tried to mostly look at players who speak Spanish or English, as that language barrier has been an admitted part of Loba’s struggles.
  3. We’ve ordered them what we think is most to least likely, based on our estimations of availability, fit, transfer cost, and interest from other top leagues around Europe.
  4. This list isn’t exhaustive. It’s probably nowhere close to Nashville’s transfer big board. It’s purely speculation. This is not a report of Nashville’s interest in these players.

Designated Players

Nashville SC have an open Designated Player (DP) spot to work with, meaning they can sign a player who can be paid over the maximum budget charge without taking up all the team’s cap space. As a refresher, Hany Mukhtar and Walker Zimmerman currently occupy two of Nashville’s three DP spots.

The past two attempts to sign a DP forward haven’t gone quite according to plan. Jhonder Cádiz was somewhere between effective and underwhelming, and Aké Loba was an unmitigated disaster. Nashville are likely to sign a DP striker this summer, but they have to nail the signing this time.

Adam Buksa – 26 – 6’4” – RC Lens – $7.4m

The former Rev had a disastrous beginning to his career with Lens. He has made just six appearances for the Ligue 1 runners-up. Taylor Twellman went on the record to say that he would be shocked if Buksa was not back in MLS this summer. Buksa’s physical profile clearly fits Gary Smith’s mold for a target striker. Could a return to MLS, this time with Nashville, be in the cards?  – CI

Juan Dineno – 29 – 6’1” – UNAL Pumas – $4.8m

Dineno will be familiar to a lot of MLS fans. His two goals and final penalty kick against New England quelled the Revolution in CCL a year ago. In the final against Seattle, Dineno scored twice more in the first leg. Rumors of an exit have swirled around Dineno in recent months.

A win-now signing, Dineno’s acquisition would announce to the league that Nashville is a serious contender for silverware. -CI 

Enner Valencia – 33 – 5’10” – Fenerbahçe – $4.0m (free agent)

The Ecuadorian star kicked off the 2022 World Cup with the tournament’s first two goals. At 33 years old, he set a career-high for goals (28) this past season. A free agent this summer, he has an offer to stay with Fenerbahçe but is weighing offers from elsewhere. – CI

Tobias Lauritsen – 25 – 6’3½” – Sparta Rotterdam – $2.1m

Lauritsen is one of the more exciting options on this list to me. The Norwegian striker is absolutely dominant in the air, winning a stunning 8.65 aerial duels per match, according to FBRef. He scored a solid 12 goals and five assists in his first season in the Dutch Eredivisie, and his passing numbers are eye-catching. Stylistically, he’s a perfect fit for how Gary Smith wants to play, and most importantly he’d complement Hany Mukhtar really well. There will be significant competition for him, however. – BW

Oli McBurnie – 26 – 6’2” – Sheffield United – $5.3m

I have been vocal in several group chats that I think McBurnie would murder it in Nashville. A prototype target striker, McBurnie would seamlessly slide into Gary Smith’s preferred setup. He can run hot and cold but has generally been excellent when in the Championship – a very similar league as MLS in terms of quality.

Sheffield triggered a one-year extension on his contract but has been open to a sale with Rangers sniffing around. The Blades will likely recruit over McBurnie, so selling now makes a degree of sense. – CI

Tasos Douvikas – 23 – 6’1” – FC Utrecht – $6.4m

Douvikas is my favorite of our proposed options. Since signing with Utrecht in 2021, the Greek international has 31 goals in 73 games, scoring an impressive 19 league goals in the 2022-23 season. He’s lethal in and around the box, strong in the air, and dogged out of possession, making him the ideal striker for Gary Smith’s system. – BW

Bojan Miovski – 23 – 6’2” – Aberdeen – $1.1m

The immediate success of Giorgos Giakoumakis with Atlanta led me to scour the Scottish Premier League for potential options. Miovski concluded his first season with Aberdeen averaging a goal every other match.

Any suitor would probably need to pay a premium, however, he will be in line for a move sooner rather than later. The Northern Macedonian may want to wait around as Serie A clubs had reportedly shown interest recently. He ended the season with an injury, but is set to be fit for the start of the European season in August. – CI

Simon Banza – 26 – 6’2” – Braga – $7.5m

Banza would be a home run signing for Nashville, although his performances in Portugal have increased his value and his profile significantly this season. He’s not just a dangerous target man, but he’s a dynamic dribbler and capable of playing wide as well. It would be a massive coup for the ‘Yotes to nab a player of his caliber. – BW

Raúl Jiménez – 32 – 6’2” – Wolverhampton – $9.6m

When healthy, Jiménez has been the best striker in Concacaf. His style and hold-up play ability certainly fit what Gary Smith looks for in a target man. Plus, his impact off the field engaging Nashville’s Mexican population would be invaluable. However, whether Jiménez would prove successful would come down to his ability to stay fit and available. – CI

Sam Surridge – 24 – 6’3” – Nottingham Forrest – $5.5m

Surridge has been a solid Championship striker and on the fringes at the Premier League level. A former England youth international, he played 20 matches for Forrest in the Premier League, but managed just 319 minutes as a late game sub, and scored just once from seven total shots. He was slightly more prolific at the Championship level, scoring 17 goals in just over 3,000 minutes. He’s essentially played as an attacking substitute throughout his career, but has an intriguing profile for Gary Smith’s system and could be available on a Nashville-friendly deal with Forrest looking to move players. – BW

Michael Gregoritsch – 29 – 6’4” – SC Freiburg – $8.5m

Like Dinneno, Gregoritsch would be a win-now signing, and a more expensive one at that. The Austrian international has 50 goals and 19 assists in 218 Bundesliga matches, is absolutely dominant in the air, and he’s quite dangerous in the box. He would elevate Nashville significantly for 3-4 years, but realistically wouldn’t offer much future sell-on value. – BW

Jens Odgaard – 24 – 6’2” – AZ Alkmaar – $6.4m

A Danish youth international, Odgaard is a different type of forward. While he can play centrally, he’s earned most of his minutes as an inverted right winger. He’s strong in the air and is adept at finding the ball in the box, with impressive pace to boot.

He just joined Alkmaar last summer on a deal through 2027, though, and wouldn’t leave without a significant transfer fee. – BW

Jordan Pefok – 27 – 6’3” – Union Berlin – $9.6m

After setting the world on fire in his first four Bundesliga matches, Pefok cooled off considerably. Pefok made only five league starts after the winter break and scored only a single goal. Is it too early for Union to cut bait? Probably, but given the positional fit, you at least need to make the phone call. – CI

Habib Diallo – 27 – 6’1” – Strasbourg – $14.9m

Diallo would be the most expensive potential signing on this list, and he’s also the least-realistic signing on this list. The 27-year-old Senegalese international just scored 20 goals in 36 Ligue 1 matches for a bad Strasbourg side, and will be in demand around Europe’s top leagues, with Premier League interest already reported. It’s fun to dream, though. – BW

Other options:

  • Michael Olunga – 29 – 6’4” – Al-Duhail SC – $9.6m
  • Jean-Philippe Krasso – 25 – 6’2” – Saint-Étienne – $4.3m
  • Andrea Belotti – 29 – 5’11” – Roma – $9.6m 

TAM Signings

Nashville does not necessarily have to address the striker position exclusively through the open DP slot. There are other roster mechanisms at Mike Jacbobs’ disposal to augment the roster with more striker talent.  

Since the permanent adoption of five substitutes per match, it may be best to view the #9 position as requiring two starters. A one-two punch where one player starts and plays 60-70 minutes while the other veteran contributes for the final 20+ minutes. If Nashville wants to holistically address the striker position, signing a veteran below the Maximum TAM threshold ($1,651,250) makes a lot of sense.  Here are three players that Nashville could target as non-DP options:

Jhonder Cádiz – 27 – 6’3” – Famalicão – $1.6m

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – at least that seems to be the case for NSC supporters who have embraced the idea of the Venezuelan returning to the club. Without having to pay a transfer fee as Cádiz is a free agent, he could be an attractive non-DP option for Mike Jacobs. The familiarity will cut down on the transition phase while keeping Nashville’s options open. – CI

Isac Lidberg – 24 – 6’½” – Go Ahead Eagles – $800k

Lidberg is a Swedish youth international, and he ticks a lot of the boxes that Nashville want from a striker. He’s strong, good with his back to goal, and can threaten to get in behind defenses. His scoring numbers leave a bit to be desired, but he receives the ball in really good spaces and gets a solid number of assists, He’d be a significant improvement to their front line. – BW

Teemu Pukki 33 – 5’11” – Norwich – $2.5m (free agent)

Do you know who Hany Mukhtar’s strike partner was when he received the Danish Superliga player-of-the-season honors in 2017-18? That’s right, Teemu Pukki. The Finish forward is leaving Norwich on a free transfer. While one of the shortest guys on this list, Pukki makes a certain degree of sense for Nashville as a maximum TAM signing paired with a much younger U22 Initiative striker. – CI

Young DP / U22 Initiative 

Two other means to address the striker position are through the Young Designated Player Rule and the U22 Initiative. A YDP is a Designated Player who is 23 years old or younger. The advantage Nashville could gain by signing a YDP rather than a Senior DP is that it would keep all three U22 Initiative slots open.

The U22 Initiative is an acquisition and roster mechanism that allows teams to sign talented youngsters, under the age of 22, at a significantly reduced budget charge. The transfer fee paid by the club is not added to the player’s budget charge, as long as the salary remains under the Maximum Budget Charge ($651,250).

Even if Nashville does sign a Senior DP, it will have one U22 slot available to potentially sign a second striker. This would be a similar strategy that the Los Angeles Galaxy took by signing both Chicharito (Senior DP) and Dejan Joveljić (U22 Initiative). Here are some players that Nashville could target:

Petar Ratkov – 19 – 6’4” – TSC Bačka Topola – $640k

Tommy Scoops has reported that MLS clubs are pursuing Ratkov. Depending on salary demands, the Serbian teenager should fit in as a U22 signing. After scoring 13 goals and making his Serbian National Team debut, the teenager should garner plenty of suitors this summer. – CI

Tommy Conway – 20 – 6’1” – Bristol City – $1.5m

Conway is an interesting option. Stylistically, the English Championship has translated well to MLS, and Conway looks like a fit for the physicality of MLS. He scored 12 goals in 34 appearances for 14th-placed Bristol City this season, and while he may well want to stay in England and try to make at that level, he could be an interesting fit in Nashville. – BW

Saúl Guarirapa – 20 – 6’2” – Caracas FC – $430k

Total Football Analysis recently highlighted Guarirapa in their May scouting magazine. I will not give anything away from their detailed analysis.

However, the write-up reminded me in a lot of ways of his compatriot, Jhonder Cádiz. Pairing Guarirapa as a U22 Initiative signing with Cádiz on a TAM deal would be an interesting approach to solving the striker riddle. – CI

Alejo Véliz – 19 – 6’2” – Rosario Central – $4.3m

MLS clubs have targeted Argentina for DP signings for over a decade. It makes a lot of sense to search those areas that have produced fantastic attacking players for the league time and time again. Véliz will have plenty of eyeballs on him at the U20 World Cup. He has already scored three goals as Argentina’s starting striker. Although an intriguing option, continued strong performances in the knockout rounds may push his price tag well beyond Nashville’s budget. – CI

Matheus Nascimento – 19 – 6’1” – Botafogo – $7.5m

A Football Manager favorite of mine. I brought him to Coventry, sold him to Stuttgart, and brought him back after eventually securing promotion. In real life, Nascimento has yet to break through with league-leading Botafogo.

He has yet to score a goal in Série A, although he has bagged several in the state league. By all accounts, there is still a lot of reason to be hopeful in his development. Nascimento was selected for Brazil’s U20 National Team. He came off the bench in Brazil’s first two group-stage matches. – CI

Other options:

  • Luciano Gondou – 21 – 6’2” – CA Sarmiento – $2.7m 
  • Tomáš Čvančara – 22 – 6’3” – Sparta Prague – $2.1m
  • Maelo Rentería – 19 – 6’2” – Independiente del Valle – $106k
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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