It’s SuperDraft day! Starting at 1PM central, Major League Soccer clubs will have the option to select players from the college soccer system. Nashville SC has five picks in the draft, after trading for two selections from Philadelphia.
Nashville had a lot of success in the 2020 draft, selecting center-back Jack Maher with the second overall pick, as well as finding starting right-back Alistair Johnston and backup goalkeeper in the later rounds.
2021 will look different. The three players mentioned above who really contributed for Nashville from last year’s draft were all taken by the 13th selection. Nashville’s first pick in 2021 is 20th overall.
There’s also the fact that the pandemic prevented a fall college schedule, so players will have the option to join their MLS side in May after playing with their college side in the spring, with The Athletic‘s Jeff Rueter reporting that MLS will add two additional roster spots for players who go this route.
So where could Nashville strengthen their roster? It’s unlikely that they’ll find a player who can come in and challenge for starting minutes in year one (although not impossible), but rather players who can provide depth and develop into bigger contributors down the road.
Nashville also have a couple areas of more obvious need: they have just two goalkeepers on their roster, could use additional full-back depth, as well as depth in midfield. Here are some options.
Josh Penn – winger – Indiana University/Indy Eleven
Penn doesn’t exactly fill a position of need for Nashville, but if he’s available with the 20th pick, he may be too valuable to pass. The 20-year-old is able to play anywhere across the front line, and already has two years of professional experience, playing as an academy player for USL side Indy Eleven. He’s also left-footed, a nice change to the players already on the roster. Nashville could send him back to USL on loan to continue to develop.
Daniel Steedman – midfielder – Virginia/Atlanta United 2
Steedman already has professional experience at the USL level, and looks like a player who could develop into a more attack-minded no. 8 at the MLS level, something Nashville needs. He’d probably need to be taken with the 20th overall pick, but if he somehow falls to 46th Nashville should absolutely snap him up.
Avionne Flanagan – left-back – South Florida
Flanagan will likely be picked by the time Nashville are on the clock, but he’s another one worth taking if he’s an option. One of the best left-backs in the draft, he’s trained with MLS teams in the past, and would bring some depth to Nashville.
Lamine Conte – midfielder/center-back – Louisville
Lamine Conte has a lot of similarities to Brian Anunga, with the added bonus of being able to play as a center-back. Conte was developed in the Philadelphia Union academy and was a starter when healthy for Louisville. He’s probably not an immediate contributor for Nashville, but an exciting long-term option.
Louis Perez – midfielder – Central Florida
Perez is one of the best on-the-ball midfielders in the draft, and seems like one of the players best equipped to transition to MLS. He’s a French national, which would require an international spot, something Nashville doesn’t have in plenty. He’s reportedly close to a green card, though.
Daniel Trejo – forward – California State
Another forward, Trejo is a really exciting, diminutive striker who does something Nashville struggled to do: score goals. In his three seasons in California, he’s tallied 26 goals and 15 assists. There’s obviously an issue of translating to MLS, but he’s a good candidate for a USL loan, and could be tempting if available.
Andrew Pannenburg – goalkeeper – Wake Forest
Pannenburg is one of the three best goalkeepers in the draft, and Nashville need a goalkeeper. While he may not project as a first round selection, he also likely won’t be available by the time Nashville select in the second round at 46 overall. With 30 college appearances to his name and a 75% save percentage, he should be a capable third-choice option for Nashville.
Nicky Hernandez – midfielder – North Texas SC
Hernandez is a talented central midfielder who left SMU early to sign a pro contract with USL League One side North Texas. He’s a no. 8, which Nashville need, and if he falls into the second round, he could be a great value pick.
Kareen Riley – defensive midfielder – Florida Gulf Coast
Riley is another international player, and that might make him too much of a reach for Nashville. Still, the 6-3 native of Trinidad & Tobago is one of the best defensive midfield prospects in the draft, and has a really impressive and aggressive passing range. If Nashville can handle using an international spot on him, he could be an interesting understudy for Aníbal Godoy.
Logan Panchot – right-back – Stanford
Panchot is similar to Alistair Johnston in a lot of ways. Both played more as midfielders in college, but are projected to fit as a fullback at the MLS level. He might not have the long-term starting level talent of Johnston, but with Eric Miller still in negotiations to return, he could be a less expensive reserve option.
Jack Doran – midfielder – Duke
Doran will likely fall to the later rounds of the draft, and could be an option for Nashville, who have the 74th and 75th overall picks. A senior out of Duke, he’s on the older end of players in the draft (23), but is probably worth a flier.
It should be noted that I’m in no way an expert on college soccer, but there are plenty of others who are. If you’re looking for more info, I encourage you to check out Top Drawer Soccer, Soccer By Ives, and MLSSoccer.com‘s Matt Doyle.
The 2021 MLS SuperDraft will take place on Thursday, January 21, starting at 1PM central. It will be broadcast on the league website and app, as well as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pluto TV. A full list of eligible players can be found here.