Nashville SC added to their attack late in the summer transfer window, signing winger-slash-fullback Jacob Shaffelburg on loan from Toronto FC, with a purchase option included in the deal. For a more in-depth look at how Shaffelburg will fit in Nashville, we checked in with Kieran Doyle, a Toronto-based writer for American Soccer Analysis. You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KierDoyle.
Ben Wright: Just off the bat, what kind of player is Jacob Shaffelburg? What should Nashville fans expect?
Kieran Doyle: Shaffelburg is what you would expect from an ultra hard working kid from Atlantic Canada. As an outsider looking at the ethos around Nashville, he’s going to fit in perfectly. Works really hard for the squad, very physically talented, aggressive to close people down, run in behind, recover for others, a bit of nastiness (his last TFC appearance ended with blood pouring from his face, for example) etc. I think it’s a great fit.
BW: Gary Smith has a pretty defined system that stays consistent, even when switching from a back five to a back four. From what you’ve seen of Nashville, how/where do you think Shaffelburg will fit?
KD: One of the really nice parts about Shaff’s game is that he has spent some time at fullback, wingback, and as an orthodox winger. I think with his ability to stretch teams vertically and also stepping out to close people down, you’ll see him almost exclusively as the widest midfielder in the 442, or as a wingback in a back 3. He’s got really solid underlying attacking output, both in terms of xG and xA, for someone with as many defensive minutes as he’s played.
BW: From what I’ve seen of Shaffelburg, I’ve been impressed, especially the run he had in the team last September. Is this move a byproduct of Toronto’s signing two Italian international wingers, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, who will almost certainly keep him out of the team?
KD: Shaff was one of the few bright spots in the disaster of 2021, but there had been a lot of noise about where he was headed at the end of this contract. With Bradley retooling the roster, this is a move to get something now instead of losing him for free.
BW: $225k to loan Shaffelburg for the rest of the season plus the international spot seems like a really good deal. What do you think Shaffelburg’s ceiling is in MLS? Would you expect Nashville to trigger his purchase option?
KD: In the same vein, you are right, this is a pretty Nashville friendly side of the transaction with a few caveats. TFC are under the international quota and with the window closing, extracting some value now before it expires worthless is smart.
The real decider on this trade will be what the purchase option actually looks like, which I don’t think has been reported yet. Given some of the rumors of Toronto’s asks for other kids in trade talks, I would expect it to be significant.
BW: Nashville’s biggest need is someone besides Hany Mukhtar who can consistently contribute goals. Do you think Shaffelburg can do that in Music City?
KD: He hasn’t been a consistent scorer/assisted yet, but the underlying numbers are there. I don’t think Nashville fans should expect him to come in and be a star, but he’s a solid squad player with a lot of upside.
BW: Lastly, what are you expecting from this weekend’s match between Nashville and Toronto?
KD: The homer in me says if Nashville defend deeper and let TFC get into their possession rhythms, they will struggle to hang on. At the same time, Toronto are maybe the worst transition defending team in the league and the thought of Mukhtar running at Shane O’Neill in acres of space makes me scared. Call it a draw.