The Postcard – July 31

Welcome to the first ever edition of The Postcard, a mailbag style series where you ask questions and I attempt to answer them.

You guys brought some good stuff this week. Follow me on Twitter @benwright so you can get your questions in for the next round. Let’s keep this going!

Welcome!

For starters, watching games in person again (fingers crossed) is going to be really special. 2021 is going to be a interesting season. I think it will feel more like a traditional expansion season for Nashville than 2020. They’ve had terrible luck this year, with the Tornado, Covid-19 delaying the season, and then forcing them to withdraw from the MLSisBack Tournament. It’s been a lot. 2021 will probably bring some new signings, and we’ll definitely see the game-after-game improvement we haven’t been able to see this year.

As for favorite players, watch a couple NSC games and see which players you find yourself excited by or identifying with. Soccer allows for self-expression on the field in a way that most other games don’t. Enjoy seeing players show their personalities on the field and go from there.

When you start watching Nashville SC play, it’ll quickly become obvious that this team is build from the back. Defensive solidity has been a hallmark of head coach Gary Smith’s career, and while he may not be an out-and-out “defensive coach”, his teams don’t concede much.

Nashville also has a very strong midfield, with Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy comprising the center of their 4-2-3-1 formation. They play as a bridge between defense and attack, helping the back four in defense and transitioning possession to the attackers.

The attack has been the struggle so far. Designated Players Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar have shown flashes, but never quite clicked. Striker Dom Badji works hard, but doesn’t have the track record to be the long-term no. 1 option. That’s where Nashville needs improvement the most.

I really, really like Medranda’s game. He’s crazy versatile and he’s a difference maker whenever he’s on the pitch. He’s had terrible luck with injuries over the last two-plus years, but with him back to full health, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he pushes for a starting role.

Part of that depends on the schedule. My guess is they’ll play all three games before the regular season resumes (Friday/Wednesday/Saturday or something similar), but we don’t know for sure. They could be scattered throughout the season.

I do think that Miller’s spot is the least-safe of any of the starting defenders, no disrespect to him. Nashville have World-Cup veteran defender Brayan Beckeles on the bench. Some minor fitness issues at the start of the year probably impacted his involvement early on, but he could push Miller. I also wrote about Alistair Johnston earlier this week. The rookie is really highly-rated in Nashville. He’ll get more involved as the season progresses.

  1. They’ll have a decently long leash. They had hoped to have seen Ríos start 15+ matches by the time the transfer window rolled around. That didn’t happen. Remember, though, they did go out and buy Ríos from Chivas Guadalajara, one of the biggest clubs on the continent. He has an impressive pedigree, an elite record in USL, and he’s still just 25. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Ríos performs really well and they still go out and buy a DP striker, though. Squad depth is huge in any league, especially MLS.
  2. So even if they do buy a DP striker, they have a bit of flexibility. Randall Leal currently occupies a DP slot, but he’s within the range that they could buy him down with TAM and free up a slot (I know, MLS roster rules are weird). I expect they’ll do that eventually. I’ve heard talk of a DP winger with the third spot, and would expect them to explore that more in the January transfer window.
  1. Aké Loba
  2. Maxi Romero
  3. José Macías (massive, massive longshot, but I can dream).

MLS is a lot different than it was 10 years ago. The introduction of TAM has allowed teams to significantly improve the quality of the average player on their roster, and the coaching in the league is significantly better.

I think Smith has evolved some. I also think he had very little to work with in Colorado. I’m interested to see how he does with more investment in Nashville.

Pretty low, unfortunately. I really think he has the talent to succeed at the MLS level. He’s the best finisher on Nashville’s roster. But injuries are a killer, man. He’s doing really well in Louisville and looks at home there. Nashville have a recall clause in his loan deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Louisville tries to make the move permanent in the offseason.

Probably Minnesota.

The short answer is no advantages, lots of disadvantages.

Nashville hasn’t played a game in nearly five months. That’s twice the length of a typical offseason, and they’d normally have 5-6 friendly matches during training camp to get ready. They’re going into the regular season completely cold.

They also are at a huge disadvantage as an expansion team. FC Dallas, who they will likely face next week, have a core that’s played together for years and have an established team identity. NSC don’t. So they lost out on a huge opportunity to play competitive games and continue to develop.

They also missed out on a potential spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, a tournament between the best sides on the continent. They would have had to win the entire tournament, which is a big ask, but it’s a huge opportunity for a side to qualify for CCL in just their second year.

Being withdrawn from the tournament also cost them a chance to build momentum and get a piece of the Nashville sports market. With none of the “Big 4” sports in play when the tournament started, they really could’ve used the airtime to bring new fans in and hook them.

Overall, it’s just a gut punch that they couldn’t play. Soft as it may be, that’s the truth.

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! This was a lot of fun. Let’s keep doing it. Keep sending your questions in the comments, on Twitter using the hashtag #ThePostcardBroadway, or via email at benwrightsoccer@gmail.com. And be on the lookout for more Nashville SC news coming out soon.

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