Nashville SC: Five Things to Watch in Expansion Draft
Like J Cole, Mike Jacobs is making his list and checking it twice. The MLS players eligible list to be taken in the Expansion Draft was released Saturday. So who should Nashville SC take in Tuesday’s expansion draft? That is a really hard question as a lot depends on what trade offers the club receives as well. It is important to understand this isn’t a draft where the 10 best players will be picked by Miami and Nashville. More often than not other factors matter more. The players age, salary, position and whether or not they take up an international roster spot are huge factors in each pick.
Nashville Will Fill Positions of Need
Projecting the starting 11 for their first MLS match it seems likely Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy will fill the defensive mid spots. The wingers and attacking midfield look solid too with Randall Leal, Hany Mukhtar and David Accam. It is also likely David Romney starts at the left center back position. So that leaves needs of a left back, center back, right back, number 9 and probably a keeper. I expect at least two if not three of the need positions to be filled come Tuesday night. I’ll be honest, I know little about the majority of players listed. That said, after researching for a bit here are five things to watch for Tuesday.
Nashville Wheels and Deals
Jacobs has said multiple times this week that of the five picks it is more likely the team ends up with 1 player and four trades than 5 players. Expect trades during and perhaps after the draft. Certain picks might be made just to trade. For example, Alvas Powell is just 25 years old and had a great track record in Portland. FC Cincinnati felt he was worth $250,000 in GAM to trade for him last year. Yes, suggesting taking any defender on Cincinnati after last season seems crazy given they gave up the most goals in MLS history. Point is a year ago he had significant value and is still just 25. Some players may be selected as an asset to trade for GAM, TAM or international roster spots. Because of this don’t get confused if the Nashville selects a defensive midfielder. It just likely means they are going to flip him.
Nashville Selects Starting Left Back
Left Back is a position of need for Nashville and there is a large group to choose from. Ben Sweat is getting talked about all over the place. I have no idea which one, but would be a bit surprised if Nashville SC doesn’t have their starting left back come Wednesday. So who might be lining up on David Romney’s left side in a back four? Here are a few they should be considering.
Ben Sweat A 28 year old American left back. For NYCFC, he averaged just under 2,200 minutes in 2017 and 2018, before injury last year dropped his minutes to 1,265. There was a back injury and an ankle injury. That said, when healthy he has been the first choice left back for NYCFC. A starting left back on a $200,000 salary is what Nashville should be looking to find.
Waylon Francis A 29 year old Costa Rican left back. A veteran MLS player has played over 100 MLS games since 2014. Last season he played 1382 minutes for Columbus Crew making $160,000.
Seth Sinovic A 32 year old has played for Sporting KC for years. Last year he started 21 games playing just under 2000 minutes. His salary last year of $135,000 isn’t far from minimum.
Mohamed El-Munir A 27 year old left back started four matches and played just under 600 minutes for LAFC last year. Like the others mentioned, his salary of $185,000 is cap friendly.
Nashville Picks Up a Center Back
This is another need position for the club. David Romney is a versatile player who can play left back, but I’m assuming he’ll start the season in the left center back position. He needs a partner and there are couple worth considering. Recall how I said this isn’t about picking the best players. Seattle Sounders Panamanian veteran Roman Torres would probably be picked if it was just about talent and next season. However, at 33 and a $670,000 salary I would be shocked if Nashville selected him. Although unlikely a 4th or 5th round pick on a center back wouldn’t surprise me. There might be better ones on the list, but two to consider would be Ibeagha and Barath.
Sebastien Ibeagha A 27 year old 6’2” center back started 11 matches for NYCFC last season at near minimum league salary of $75,000.
Botond Barath A 27 year old 6’2” right footed center back. He could slot in right next to David Romney. The Hungarian started 20 matches for Sporting Kansas City last season playing 1750 minutes. His $250,000 could be a bit lower, but given last year was his first in MLS improvement in 2020 season would not be surprising.
Not So Slim Pickens
I was debating whether or not Nashville SC will select a goalie. Why pick a keeper when you have Matt Pickens? I first saw this hinted at in a Tim Sullivan tweet. He’s coming off arguably the best season in USL history. If he played another season it would save money and he’s transitioning to goalkeepers coach. Let him play and mentor Sparrow and/or another reserve roster spot guy next season. That’s what I’d consider doing. Then I saw goalies like Evan Bush and Tyler Miller were on the list. Bush is four years younger than Pickens and Miller is a baby at just 26 years old. Locking in a potential starter for the next five years or more seems tempting. Miller is due a raise, but currently only makes $78,000. There is a good chance they grab him or another keeper with one of the picks.
What About a Number 9?
I’ve heard more than one person say they think Daniel Rios could be starting the opening MLS match. That would be disappointing. Not that he can’t do it, but given how they have invested in other roster spots having a minimum salary forward who has never played a single minute at this high a level would be a major risk. Mike Jacobs has used the phrase “quantum leap” several times the past few weeks describing the difference in quality of play between USL and MLS. There weren’t any 9’s that jumped out at me as must haves so I think they’ll fill this need through a trade or signing after the draft. If they do select someone my guess would be either Danladi or Vazquez.
Abu Danladi The number 1 overall pick by Minnesota United in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Danladi started 15 games for the Loons back in 2017. He only started 9 total the past two years. Still just 24, the Ghanaian likely hasn’t seen his peak.
Brandon Vazquez A 21 year old American who started seven matches playing a bit over 600 minutes last season for Atlanta United. At 6’3” he fits the profile of a traditional 9. While he hasn’t played much, when arguably the best player in MLS (Josef Martinez) is ahead of you on the depth chart minutes are going to be hard to come by. He makes $150,000 which isn’t a lot. That said, with Lancaster and Rios already in the squad I’m not sure the team would want another young unproven forward. I like the potential upside however. Greg Seltzer actually had Miami taking Vazquez with the first pick in his mock draft for the MLS website.