For the first time, Nashville SC have a new source of player acquisition heading into an offseason: Huntsville City FC. Nashville have had a full season of Huntsville City to look at, and can begin to get an idea about who might be worth calling up to the first team in 2024.
Quick disclaimer: I’m only counting outfield players, as of course Ben Martino was with the first team for Leagues Cup, is in training with Nashville almost every week, and is the clear third-choice ‘keeper in Nashville. But there are a handful of other players I think could take the two hour drive up I-65 from the Rocket City to the Music City next season.
Joey DeZart and Chrisnovic N’Sa
In 2023, we saw two outfield players get called up to the Nashville first team and actually make an appearance in a matchday squad. Both DeZart and N’Sa were in the squad for the Open Cup fixture against San Antonio FC, with DeZart coming on for the final 10 minutes. 14 days later it was DeZart alone who was on the bench for another Open Cup fixture, again making a late cameo in their 2-0 win over FC Dallas.
It feels reasonable to say that if those two were the only two to make that jump to Nashville last year, even in extremely limited minutes, they should be at least in contention to do it again next year. Playing a combined 3,700 plus minutes between them in Huntsville last season doesn’t hurt their chances either.
Kemy Amiche is one of a handful of players Nashville signed to first team contracts last winter with an eye on developing them in Huntsville. Amiche just happens to be the one who took the biggest step forward in 2023. Winning Huntsville Player of the Year with eight goals and six assists is testament to that.
Another aspect is that Nashville’s first team is crying out for any kind of creativity from midfield. If Amiche can show anything like what Nashville asks Randall Leal to do, I’m sure he’ll earn himself some minutes in gold next year. His contract situation certainly makes that move easier.
Isaiah Johnston is in a similar position to Amiche, but with a different contract to navigate. Amiche’s first-team contract means that Nashville can move him between the two sides whenever they see fit.
Isaiah Johnston’s contract is with Huntsville. This means that if he were to move up to the first team for any extended period, it’d have to come with a first-team contract. Nashville is allowed three “short-term loans” which are basically designed to give you cover on your bench for 10 days at a time. During these periods, players are allowed to make the squad twice, and appear on the field once. Any more than that, and you need to sign a deal with Nashville.
However, this only applies to MLS. The US Open Cup Leagues Cup, and Concacaf Champions Cup are completely separate. So even if Nashville lacks the flexibility to give him league minutes, he could theoretically see time in a different competition. Especially considering the evident midfield problems Nashville have to address this winter, Johnston is in an intriguing position to make an impact.
Joey Skinner is another one of those Huntsville players already on a first-team contract with Nashville.
Skinner is the nailed on left back in Huntsville when healthy. Nashville has some serious decision making to do with it’s left back spot this offseason, as both Dan Lovitz and Taylor Washington have contract options on the table this offseason. If Nashville declines the option on either Lovitz or Washington, Skinner would naturally move up to fill that void on the roster.
Once again, already being on a first team contract makes that transition much more simple from a roster construction standpoin. His Generation adidas deal means that he doesn’t count towards Nashville’s budget charge, further making him a likely option. If either sustains any injuries during the season, Skinner would be easy to call up from Huntsville to provide cover.
Adem Sipić, Nashville’s first-ever homegrown signing, is on a first team deal and will be elligible to play with Nashville at the start of the 2024 season.
As you’re probably tired of hearing me say by now, that makes things a whole lot easier. I fully expect he still plays the bulk of his minutes for Huntsville next, but a handful of appearances in cups and league play are still probably on the table.
If you fit him into the third striker spot in Nashville, you just have to look at 2023’s third striker to get an idea of his role. Ethan Zubak played in just nine games in all competitions this past season. If Sipić can get around that number, it would be a nice start for his professional career. This first season in his development with the first team is less about volume of minutes and more about introducing him to the environment and allowing time and opportunity him to adjust.
It’s worth mentioning Azaad Liadi should also be in contention for minutes in a similar sort of role. He’s on a contract with Huntsville, limiting his opportunities for involvement without adding him to the senior roster. Gary Smith is known for rolling out less than full strength lineups in the Open Cup, though, so there may be opportunities for him there, especially with CONCACAF Champions Cup on the horizon.
What do you think? Which Huntsville City players do you think deserve a chance with Nashville SC next season? Let us know in the comments or in the replies.