The Post Card: The transfer window is open

It’s another edition of the Post Card, and after Nashville SC’s worst-ever margin of defeat, y’all had plenty of questions. To help out, I brought in my colleague Chris Ivey to tag team things. Let’s dive in.

Chris: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

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Ben: I don’t love getting player names on jerseys anyway, so I’m not the right person to ask.

Chris: I would not be so confident that Walker Zimmerman would stay if not made a Designated Player. Let’s say that Nashville only offered Zimmerman a Maximum Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) threshold contract of $1,612,500 per year. That salary would only rank around 90th among all English Premier League defenders.

If you’re Nottingham Forest or one of the other recently promoted clubs, would you not jump all over signing the best defender in Concacaf for that cut-rate price? Even if you think the Premier League is not his level, Zimmerman’s salary would not be cost prohibitive for several EFL Championship clubs chasing promotion. A yo-yo club such as Norwich or Burnley would jump at the chance to sign a defender like Zimmerman on a free transfer. 

If Nashville did not pay Zimmerman the salary that he could command on the open market, they risked letting a club cornerstone leave for free.

Ben: Totally agree with Chris, with the added caveat that even after signing the DP deal, Zimmerman has expressed his desire to play in Europe. We all expect him to play a major role for the United States at the World Cup in November, and that tournament will likely drive up his value.

From a Nashville perspective, it’s probably worth overpaying a bit to make sure that if Zimmerman does leave, he earns a solid transfer fee with his transfer value only likely to increase. It could be a scenario where he leaves in January or the summer transfer window, and you can’t lose the best defender in Concacaf for free.

If he stays, using a DP spot on a guy guaranteed to produce at a Best XI level isn’t a bad thing. Especially given the sub-par performance of other DPs on the roster.

Chris: I expect to see Joe Willis in net the rest of the season for Nashville. As long as there is no return of the calamitous goalkeeping errors that plagued him earlier in the season, his confidence will return. For me, the bigger question is whether he is still the starting goalkeeper in Nashville to start in 2023.

Ben: You have to pick one and stick with it. It’s been pretty back-and-forth since Panicco came back from loan. He got two games, Willis started three, then Panicco got two, and now back to Willis.

I don’t think Panicco has been any better or worse than Willis. They’ve both made some impressive saves and some pretty awful mistakes. In my opinion, Panicco offers more upside and looks like he could be a potential long-term option in goal. If it was me, I’d give him an extended run of games, but ultimately you need to just pick one and ride it out.

Chris: If I were the manager, I would use this as an opportunity to give Loba a string of starts to finally put to rest the question of “will he or won’t he” make good for Nashville. But there is no indication that any change up top is forthcoming. While the goal-scoring drought is certainly not ideal, Sapong still provides value in other ways for Nashville as a target forward.

Ben: I think it’s pretty clear that Loba and Sapong are completely different players. Going back to his time in Monterrey, Loba has always been best when paired up top with a target striker. He’s not a back-to-goal, hold up forward. I really don’t think it’s a like-for-like switch.

Gary Smith has always relied heavily on having a target forward, and even when he’s not scoring, Sapong does a ton of excellent hold up play that’s vital to how Nashville play. Ideally Nashville make a signing at right back and a switch to a back four makes a place for Loba in the lineup, but I don’t think slotting him in for Sapong makes a ton of sense in this system.

Chris: I would characterize it not as over-reliance, but as Nashville missing a key ingredient when the midfield pairing is Brian Anunga and Sean Davis: passing.

Anunga and Davis both possess elite defensive traits as MLS midfielders. But when those two are paired together, the Coyotes’ build-up looks far too disjointed and rarely threatens to spring attacks with long diagonals or line-breaking passes. When Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy are not on the field, Nashville misses their ability to spark the offense in that way. As this could be Dax McCarty’s final season, Nashville needs to find another midfielder or two that fits his profile. As to who may be available, that is hard to say.

Ben: Nashville need a more creative, attack-minded midfielder. McCarty has done that role well for Nashville, and his experience and intelligence means that he’s really good at picking moments to get forward and play around the box. But he’s also 35 and hasn’t been able to play as consistently this year.

I’d love to see them go after a more dynamic box-to-box midfielder, perhaps with a U22 spot. That would allow Sean Davis or Brian Anunga to play more to their strengths. Part of playing in this 3-4-1-2 formation means that the midfield has to be able to play forward passes and consistently get the ball to the frontline in good positions.

Ben: It would take a boatload of GAM (which Nashville have), and I’m not sure Arango fits naturally in this system as a target forward, similar to what we just said about Loba.

That being said, Arango is just a lethal finisher. He’s scored 21 goals in just under 3,000 minutes since joining LAFC in 2021. Only seven players (one of them being Hany Mukhtar) have more goals in that span. He’s 27, an international for Colombia, and to cap it all off, he doesn’t require a DP spot.

I have no inside knowledge of what Nashville are planning to do here, but Arango is a valuable asset potentially available at a discount. He fits Nashville’s philosophy of “valuing the undervalued.” If I’m Mike Jacobs, I’m making a call. I imagine virtually every other team in MLS is too, though.

Chris: Yeah, I’d love to drop Chico Arango into this squad. He seemingly scores a goal every time he touches the field.

My only concern is whether Nashville will have the allocation money necessary to pull off a trade for Arango. If a rumored Shaq Moore move occurs, Nashville will need to utilize a lot of allocation money to clear Moore’s transfer fee. Will they have enough in the bank for Arango? I’m not quite sure.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and thanks to Chris Ivey for helping me out. If you’re not following him, you’re missing out on some of the best Nashville SC analysis out there. @ChrisIvey865. Do it.

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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