Nashville SC made waves with their record signing of striker Aké Loba for a $6.8 million transfer fee. We’re continuing to break down the move, and wanted a local perspective on the new DP. So we spoke with Patrick Nader, a Mexican-based reporter who covers MLS and has followed the Loba saga from the beginning.
BW: First of all, can you just give a brief scouting report of Aké Loba? What kind of player is he? How would you describe him to someone who’s never seen him play?
Patrick Nader: Aké Loba is a very dynamic player. He can play in the wings and he can play in the middle. When on the left wing, we see him as an inverted winger where he cuts to the middle and shoots or plays the through ball. When he’s in the right wing he can do the same, but he also can play like a natural winger and go all the way to the end of the field and send in a cross. When playing in the middle, he’s great at getting open for passes or crosses to finish inside the six yard box. He can also dribble past defenders when coming in from outside of the box. A very versatile player that gives you a lot of possibilities to create chances.
BW: It’s been a long road for him to end up in Nashville, who were interested him last winter when he was in high demand from Cruz Azul and Monterrey, where he ultimately landed. How was his time with Rayados?
PN: He was one of the emerging talents in Liga MX when playing for Querétaro and grabbed the attention of almost everybody in the league. Obviously, only the richer teams could actually afford to send in offers. Some of the bigger teams already had full squads and ultimately Cruz Azul and Rayados were in for him. Cruz Azul at the moment were a bit of a mess with a lot of controversy outside of the pitch. Rayados, meanwhile, were enjoying some great moments with a great atmosphere surrounding the club.
At Monterrey, he knew he wasn’t going to start or be a regular but he wanted to fight for his spot. I think his time at Rayados is difficult to examine because of his limited chances when playing. When he played more minutes, he was with the “B” team in games where Rayados could afford to rotate. And when he played with the “A” team, he came in when games were already decided or Rayados was eager to score. Monterrey was not patient with him.
BW: Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs talked about him as more of a back-shoulder runner. And from what I’ve seen, he’s capable of dropping deeper at times to link play, but is at his best when he’s getting behind the center-backs and trying to stretch the field. How do you think he’s best utilized, and what does the team around him need to do for him to succeed?
PN: I think he can definitely do that. Like I said, he’s very versatile and can easily adjust to different attacking formations. At Rayados, he was used like a swiss army knife. For me, he is at his best when playing as a right winger or as a number nine finishing chances inside the box.
BW: Yeah, he played on the wing at times for Rayados, and I definitely agree that he has some versatility. Do you expect him to factor much on the wing in MLS, or was that mostly a way to get him on the field with a very crowded group of strikers in Monterrey?
PN: Exactly. Most of the time, he just had to be used wherever there was space for him. I believe he will be used more in the middle in the MLS. He’s almost like a 10 but a little bit more attacking, and definitely with more goals under his belt.
BW: Players coming to MLS from Liga MX generally seem to adapt to the league more quickly than players from Europe, or even other South and Central American leagues. How quickly would you expect Loba to get up and running in Nashville?
PN: I think he should be fine and will adapt quickly. He didn’t play much for Rayados and that could make it a little bit slower, but he was always fit and always training. And when he wasn’t called to a game with the senior team, he played with the youth team.
BW: Nashville obviously believe in him and dropped almost $7 million to sign him. What’s his ceiling? Do you think he’ll succeed at the MLS level?
PN: I think he will. He gives you a lot of chances, assists and goals. I’m sure he can be sold to Europe easily from Nashville and if not, he could be one of the first club stars for years to come. There’s also the possibility of a big Liga MX club buying him for a lot of money if he does well for a couple of years.
BW: And lastly, could you tell our readers about your work and where they can find you?