On Wednesday, just before a preseason friendly against Birmingham Legion FC, in front of Nashville faithful, Nashville SC Academy midfielder Isaiah Jones was announced as the club’s second homegrown signing, joining former academy teammate Adem Sipić with that distinction.
In 2023, Jones made seven appearances for Huntsville City FC at the tail end of the season, logging 350 minutes and starting in four of those games. He didn’t register any goals or assists for Nashville’s MLS NEXT Pro affiliate, but he did complete 85.8% of his passes. Expect Jones, much like Sipić, to spend the season a couple hours down south in Huntsville, where he should figure to get plenty of minutes alongside players like Isaiah Johnston.
He already has good positional and defensive sense, winning 52.5% of his duels in his time on the field. For reference, Dax McCarty finished 2023 winning 54.9% of his duels, Sean Davis won 50.8%, Brian Anunga won 40.3%, and Anibal Godoy won 58.9%.
Obviously sample size and competition level is different, but if those kinds of numbers continue, Isaiah Jones would be winning duels at exactly the kind of rates Gary Smith expects from his midfielders.
Passing range is probably the area of Jones’ game where you are likely to see quick, and impressive growth. Jones averaged 12.3 accurate forward zone passes per 90 in his appearances. Again, comparing to 2023 Nashville first team midfielders, Dax McCarty averaged 19.8, Godoy averaged 23.8, Davis averaged 15.3, and Anunga averaged 14.2.
This is nothing to worry about, as Jones has plenty of room for growth at just 17 years old, and some of his passing numbers are bound to be lower due to the adjustment period necessary when a player makes a step up in competition.
For instance, his midfield partner for much of his time in Huntsville last season, Isaiah Johnston, averaged 17.5 accurate forward zone passes per 90. The difference between the two is almost certainly partially down to confidence.
Johnston arrived in MLS Next Pro from the Canadian Premier League, which is of a similar level. As Isaiah Jones grows as a person and player, the game will slow down and come more naturally to him, and his passing stats will surely improve greatly.
It’s certainly telling that of a Huntsville roster that saw, to put it lightly, quite a bit of turnover from 2023, Isaiah Jones is a prospect that Nashville, and Huntsville by extension, wanted to retain.
His brother, Malachi Jones, was the 8th overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, chosen, and recently signed by NYCFC out of Lipscomb University. Malachi, along with first overall pick Tyrese Spicer, also from Lipscomb, represent talent around the Nashville area that has escaped the grasp of it’s MLS club through one mechanism or another.
Nashville made sure Isaiah Jones wasn’t to follow the same path out of the mid-south. Homegrown signings are made for the future, and the two that Nashville has made thus far, Jones and Sipić, look like they’ll have more than enough time and opportunity to reach their potential in Huntsville.