State of the roster: End of season report

Nashville SC’s season is over. And as is the reality in professional sports, there’s little time to relax. MLS Cup on December 12 signals the end of the 2020 league year, and Nashville have little time to make decisions for their 2021 roster. We’ve seen teams around MLS announce their roster moves quickly after being eliminated, and Nashville should be no different.

Nashville currently have 32 players on their roster, three of whom were on loan for the 2020 season. (We’re not counting goalkeeper CJ Cochran here, signed on a short-term loan from OKC Energy as a third goalkeeper). Nashville will have to decide whose options to pick up, as well as release a list of protected players before the 2021 Expansion Draft on December 15.

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Ahead of those moves being announced, we’re looking at each player on Nashville SC’s roster in numerical order and their status heading into the offseason.

Casey Gower-Broadway Sports

Joe Willis – stock up

Stats: 26 appearances, 26 starts, 11 clean sheets, played every minute of the season

Willis’s first season in Nashville was statistically the best of his career. Behind one of the league’s best defenses, Willis was reliable in net and made the saves that he had to, keeping Nashville in games on several occasions. He should be in Nashville for years to come.

Prediction: Stays

Dan Lovitz – stock up

Stats: 24 appearances, 24 starts, 1 goal, 2 assists

Lovitz looks like a steal after being acquired for $100k in allocation money and an international roster spot. He was a fixture on the backline and a true two-way threat on the flank. One of the best crossers in MLS, he made a case to be a top five left back in the league. Another player who should end up in Nashville long term.

Prediction: Stays

Jalil Anibaba – stock unchanged

Stats: 13 appearances, 6 starts

Anibaba was never going to be a first-choice center-back after Walker Zimmerman was acquired, but he was a reliable option off the bench, starting a handful of games at right-back and center-back. He’s still probably a starting-quality player, and will find minutes hard to come by. He should have plenty of interest from around the league, even though he’s a valuable player for Nashville to have around.

Prediction: Stays

Davey Romney – stock up

Stats: 26 appearances, 26 starts, 1 goal, 2 assists, played every minute of the season

Stock way up with Romney. A fringe player in Los Angeles, Romney was signed for up to $300k in allocation money, and was worth every penny. One of just four field players to play every minute of the season, Romney was vital to Nashville’s defense and a perfect partner for Walker Zimmerman. Nashville have found their defensive pairing for the next several seasons.

Prediction: Stays

Miguel Nazarit – stock down

Stats: 0 appearances

Nazarit was always going to be more of a long-term signing, but on a TAM contract, I expected him to be more involved than he was. He was named to the bench just once all season and didn’t make an appearance. He’s a player who could grow into a larger role in the future, but should be expendable for the right price.

Prediction: Stays

Dax McCarty – stock up

Stats: 24 appearances, 22 starts, 2 goals, 4 assists

McCarty was a known quantity heading into this season, but more than lived up to expectations. He was one of the better holding midfielders in the league in 2020, and showed no signs of slowing down at 33 years old. The captain will be a fixture once again next year.

Prediction: Stays

Abu Danladi – stock unchanged

Stats: 17 appearances, 7 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist

Like his previous MLS seasons, Danladi was mostly effective when he got on the field but was consistently hampered by injuries. He’s a great change of pace off the bench and a different type of player than Nashville have in their squad, but his availability (or lack thereof) is killer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Nashville leave him unprotected in the expansion draft.

Prediction: Leaves

Randall Leal – stock up

Stats: 24 appearances, 19 starts, 4 goals, 4 assists

Leal started the season really slowly, but found his form in the final third of the season. He picked up a lot of the slack when Hany Mukhtar missed time through injury, and showed why Nashville spent the money to sign him from Saprissa. If he can maintain that form next season, he’ll be a handful.

Prediction: Stays

Dom Badji – stock down

Stats: 12 appearances, 10 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist

Badji was the first choice striker to start the season, but ended up slipping behind Jhonder Cádiz and Daniel Ríos in the pecking order. He’s a hard worker and can play on the wings as well as through the middle, but doesn’t have the finishing touch Nashville desperately need.

Prediction: Leaves

Casey Gower-Broadway Sports

Hany Mukhtar – stock unchanged

Stats: 21 appearances, 15 starts, 5 goals, 4 assists

Mukhtar started the season slowly, but for the most part was effective when on the field. He missed over a month of the season with injuries, and was open with the fact that adapting to MLS was a struggle. He really found his form at the end of the season, though, and was Nashville’s best player for the last four matches, taking control of their playoff wins over Miami and Toronto. That stretch came close to pushing him into the “stock up” territory. If he can maintain that kind of form next season, Nashville’s attack will be much more lethal.

Prediction: Stays

David Accam – stock down

Stats: 7 appearances, 2 starts, 1 goal, 0 assists

Nashville spent $450k in allocation money to bring in the mercurial attacker, and his consistency issues continued in Nashville. He was first choice to start the season, but struggled with inconsistent form and couldn’t consistently break into the XI before an ankle injury kept him out of action for the final three months of the season. Depending on his contract status, he could be on the way out, but is likely too expensive to move to another team. Nashville will likely hold on to him and hope he can regain fitness and form in ’21.

Prediction: Stays

Alistair Johnston – stock up

Stats: 21 appearances, 18 starts, 1 assist

Right-back was a major weakness for Nashville to start the year, and the rookie from Wake Forrest solved a lot of those problems. A bargain with the 11th overall pick, Johnston will go into 2021 as the first choice right-back, and should be a fixture in a gold shirt for many years to come.

Prediction: Stays

Daniel Ríos – stock up

Stats: 21 appearances, 8 starts, 5 goals

Ríos earned the starting job before Nashville signed a DP striker, and showed that he is a capable striker at the MLS level. He struggled with injuries at times throughout the season, but pushed Cádiz for the starting job, and should have a chance to win it again in 2021. Even if he’s not the first choice forward, he’ll be one of the first names off the bench, and looks like a valuable piece for Nashville moving forward.

Prediction: Stays

Eric Miller – stock unchanged

Stats: 7 appearances, 5 starts

Miller was the first choice right-back for the first three matches of the season, but struggled defensively and was mostly a non-factor going forward. A fringe player for most of the season, Nashville will likely look to upgrade in the winter window.

Prediction: Leaves

Ken Tribbett – stock unchanged

Stats: 0 appearances

Tribbett was hurt for almost all of 2020, and likely wouldn’t have seen the field even if healthy. A solid USL defender, he’s just too injury prone to take a chance on.

Prediction: Leaves

Cameron Lancaster – stock up

Stats: Loaned to Louisville City (USL Championship), 19 appearances, 18 starts, 12 goals, 2 assists

Lancaster had a standout season for Louisville and signed a long-term deal with them following the season.

Status: Left the club

Jack Maher – stock up

Stats: 3 appearances, 2 starts

It may be a stretch to list Maher as a “stock up” player, but the second overall SuperDraft pick looked comfortable at the MLS level in his limited minutes. Playing behind arguably the league’s best center-back pairing limited his minutes, but he’s a really good young player who should grow into a starting role in the future. He’s also on a generation adidas contract, which eliminates his cap hit. He may get a loan move in 2021, but he’ll be around for a while.

Prediction: Stays

Casey Gower-Broadway Sports

Alan Winn – stock unchanged

Stats: 7 appearances, 1 start

Winn had some nice moments for Nashville, particularly in their home opener against Atlanta, where he looked like a spark off the bench. He struggled for consistency, though, and wasn’t named to the matchday squad most weeks. A move back to USL seems likely.

Prediction: Leaves

Aníbal Godoy – stock up

Stats: 20 appearances, 18 starts, 1 goal

Godoy was acquired from San Jose for an eyebrow raising $650k, but proved to be worth the investment. His pairing with Dax McCarty was a strength of the team, and his range of passing opened up the attack for Nashville. A vital piece of the squad.

Prediction: Stays

Derrick Jones – stock up

Stats: 21 appearances, 9 starts, 2 assists

Jones was played further forward as an attacking midfielder, and was often a game changer off the bench for Nashville. He showed that he’s capable of playing at the MLS level, and has potential to be one of the better players on the roster. He’ll need to take a step forward in 2021, but the early signs are good.

Prediction: Stays

Matt LaGrassa – stock up

Stats: 9 appearances, 4 starts

LaGrassa was one of the four players signed from Nashville’s USL side, and played more than expected this season due to the compressed schedule. He proved to be a competent player at the MLS level, and while new signings may limit his minutes, he’s a valuable player to have in the squad.

Prediction: Stays

Taylor Washington – stock up

Stats: 17 appearances, 2 starts, 1 assist

Washington has always been a pacy, hardworking player, but he ended up becoming one of the first names off the bench and was a reliable deputy for Dan Lovitz. Left backs are hard to find in MLS, and he may garner interest from some teams around the league.

Prediction: Stays

Tanner Dieterich – stock unchanged

Stats: Loaned to Chattanooga Red Wolves (USL League 1), 12 appearances, 10 starts, 2 goals

The Nashville native was a late round pick in the SuperDraft, and was sent to USL League One on loan, where he was a solid performer for Chattanooga. He may get another loan move, or he might be allowed to sign a permanent deal with a USL side.

Prediction: Leaves

Walker Zimmerman – stock up

Stats: 25 appearances, 25 starts, 3 goals, 1 assist

Signed for a league record $1.25 million, Zimmerman more than lived up to expectations by winning the MLS Defender of the Year award and anchoring the best defense in expansion history. He’s in the picture for the US national team, and absolutely should be a fixture in Nashville’s backline for years to come.

Prediction: Stays

Luke Haakenson – stock up

Stats: Loaned to Charlotte Independence (USL Championship), 17 appearances, 13 starts, 3 goals, 2 assists

Haakenson had a very solid debut season on loan in Charlotte, and looks like a consistent goal threat. He should get a chance to earn a roster spot in preseason with another loan move seeming likely.

Prediction: Stays

Casey Gower-Broadway Sports

Brian Anunga – stock up

Stats: 17 appearances, 11 starts

Signed from Charleston Battery for $50k, Anunga impressed in his first MLS season, filling in for Aníbal Godoy in a holding midfield role and hardly looking out of place. Just 24 years old, the Cameroonian was one of the signings of the season and should grow into a bigger role for Nashville.

Prediction: Stays

Alex Muyl – stock up

Stats: 21 appearances, 18 starts, 3 assists

Signed from New York Red Bulls midseason, and he immediately improved the side. His work on both sides of the ball was a huge asset to Nashville, and he was a consistent outlet in possession. Nashville will likely look to upgrade their wingers, but Muyl will still be a regular next season.

Prediction: Stays

Eliot Panicco – stock up

Stats: 0 appearances

The SuperDraft pick earned a job as the primary backup to Joe Willis. In fact, Nashville were so confident in him that they traded Adrián Zendejas to Minnesota. While he didn’t feature this season, he’s a serviceable backup ‘keeper.

Prediction: Stays

Brady Scott – stock unchanged

Stats: Loaned to Sacramento Republic (USL Championship), 2 appearances

Scott was signed mid-season on a free transfer, and should be a future starter for Nashville. With Willis firmly entrenched as the first-choice option, though, he’ll most likely stay on loan in USL.

Prediction: Stays

Brayan Beckeles – stock down

Stats: 2 appearances, 1 start

Signed from Olimpia in Honduras, the World Cup and Liga MX veteran seemed like a potential starter for Nashville. Instead, he struggled to impress, making just two appearances and losing his spot on the bench down the stretch. By all accounts he’s a fantastic locker room presence, but the on-field production hasn’t been enough to warrant a roster spot next year.

Prediction: Leaves

Handwalla Bwana – stock unchanged

Stats: 3 appearances

Bwana was acquired midseason from Seattle Sounders, with Jimmy Medranda and $250k in allocation money going the other way. He was always going to be a longer term signing, but showed potential in a handful of appearances off the bench. He’ll look to earn a bigger role next season.

Prediction: Stays

Casey Gower-Broadway Sports

Jhonder Cádiz – stock unchanged

Stats: 10 appearances, 3 starts, 2 goals

Nashville’s DP striker signing, Cádiz showed flashes of potential but never fully looked fit. He scored two goals in limited minutes, including a memorable winner in Orlando, and his hold up play was excellent at times, but we won’t see him at his best until next season. He’ll have until July to convince Nashville to trigger his purchase option from Benfica.

Prediction: Stays

Predicted roster decisions

Goalkeepers (3): Joe Willis, Eliot Panicco, Brady Scott

Defenders (9): Dan Lovitz, Jalil Anibaba, Dave Romney, Miguel Nazarit, Alistair Johnston, Jack Maher, Taylor Washington, Walker Zimmerman

Midfielders (10): Dax McCarty, Randall Leal, Hany Mukhtar, Aníbal Godoy, Derrick Jones, Matt LaGrassa, Brian Anunga, Alex Muyl, Luke Haakenson, Handwalla Bwana

Forwards (3): Daniel Ríos, Jhonder Cádiz, David Accam

Leaving: Abu Danladi, Dom Badji, Eric Miller, Ken Tribbett, Alan Winn, Tanner Dieterich, Brayan Beckeles

Who do you think will stay in Nashville for next season? 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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