2020 Nashville SC Season Preview

By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.

Nashville SC begin their 2020 season on Saturday, taking on league powerhouse Atlanta United at Nissan Stadium. The Boys In Gold will begin their inaugural MLS campaign in front of a crowd exceeding 50,000 fans, and the team will look to feed off of their energy and get a result in their first match.

Ahead of their debut, we previewed Nashville’s inaugural season on our latest episode of The Speedway Soccer Podcast. Below is a version of our discussion.


Extratime’s Matt Doyle set the points over/under for Nashville SC at 35.5 points in their season preview.

68.5% of fans took the under, but 100% of Speedway Soccer took the over. Why?


  • Jonathan Slape: I think there is enough defensive solidity in this team. If Nashville doesn’t make a big signing, or they aren’t able to get goals from Rios/Badji/Danladi, I could see it being less.

  • Andy Simmons: There are a lot of really good teams in the West, but I think the way this team is built, Nashville is going to be competitive in a lot of those games.

  • John Sloop: I chose the over, but I think we’re going to be right around that 35 point number.

  • Davey Shepherd: I just don’t see the defense and a Gary Smith team giving up that many goals. I’m going to take the over, regardless of if they sign another DP or not. I think this roster as it stands, should it stay healthy, is a 36 point team.

  • Lucas Panzica: With the defensive signings, I think this team raised its floor above a 36 point team.

  • Ben Wright: I think their floor is closer to 43-45 points. That being said, 48 points was the playoff line in the West last season, so there’s a lot of room between getting over 35.5 points and making the playoffs.


Where will Nashville SC finish in the table?


Who will finish the season as Nashville SC’s assist leader?


  • Davey: Hany Mukhtar

  • Ben: Randall Leal

  • Slape: Hany Mukhtar

  • Sloop: Hany Mukhtar

  • Andy: Hany Mukhtar

  • Lucas: Hany Mukhtar

  • Nekrasov: Hany Mukhtar

Why?


  • Davey: If Nashville is going to finish around the 40-45 point mark, and have a decently successful season, doesn’t it have to be one of those two guys?

  • Ben: Not to jinx anything, but Mukhtar has had injury issues, and I think there’s a scenario where if he’s hurt, Leal slots into a more central role.

  • Slape: I think there’s a good chance that Derrick Jones comes in and provides 7-8 assists for this team. He probably won’t lead the team, but he could give Leal and Mukhtar a run for their money.

  • Lucas: It’s also a matter of expectation. Mukhtar is the only designated player on this team. When you’re the designated player, it’s fair for us to expect that.

  • Slape: Not only that, but he passes the eye test. It’s easy to see that he’s the DP when you’re watching this team.


Who will finish the season as Nashville SC’s defender of the year?


  • Davey: Walker Zimmerman

  • Ben: Walker Zimmerman

  • Slape: Walker Zimmerman

  • Sloop: Walker Zimmerman

  • Andy: Walker Zimmerman

  • Lucas: Walker Zimmerman

  • Nekrasov: Walker Zimmerman


Why?


  • Davey: If he stays healthy and plays the majority of games, he’s going to be the best defensive player on the team.

  • Slape: Much like Lucas said with Mukhtar, if you go out and spend $1.25M in allocation money, this is the guy you’re building your team around. He commands the area and organizes the defense, and he’s a cut above any other defender we have.

  • Sloop: I think this is a no-brainer, more than any other. He has the track record to back it up. He’s proven he can play in this league.


Who will finish the season as Nashville SC’s top scorer?


  • Davey: Currently Unsigned

  • Ben: Daniel Ríos

  • Slape: Currently Unsigned

  • Sloop: Randall Leal

  • Andy: Currently Unsigned

  • Lucas: Daniel Ríos

  • Nekrasov: Currently Unsigned


Why?


  • Ben: I think of the guys on the roster right now, Ríos has the most potential. It’s more of a risky pick because we’re not even sure who the starting forward is, but I think he has the most potential.

  • Lucas: He has the familiarity with the club and the city, and he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder. He still has to prove himself, because he hasn’t proven himself in this league. Not that any of the other forwards have on a consistent basis, but I think he has a good shot at it.

  • Davey: I just don’t know that I see any of the forwards going out and bagging double digit goals. If you get a DP no. 9 early in the summer, I think there’s potential for him to come in and win it by 3-4 goals.

  • Slape: I think we’re going to see a lot of goals by committee. I think Leal could be a guy who leads the team in combined goals and assists. To be fair, Daniel Ríos is the only player on the roster who has scored double digit goals the past two seasons (20+ goals in his last two years). There’s clearly a difference between MLS and USL, but there’s something to be said for consistently putting the ball in the back of the net, and while he’ll be facing better defenses, he’ll also be getting better service.


Who will finish the season as Nashville SC’s Team MVP?


  • Davey: Walker Zimmerman

  • Ben: Randall Leal

  • Slape: Hany Mukhtar

  • Sloop: Walker Zimmerman

  • Andy: Hany Mukhtar

  • Lucas: Dax McCarty

  • Nekrasov: Walker Zimmerman


Why?


  • Davey: If this team goes out and concedes less than 50 goals and are in the playoff hunt, I think he’s the MVP.

  • Sloop: I don’t think Zimmerman is the safe choice. If he’s the MVP, it’s not going to be exactly the style of play we’re hoping for.

  • Lucas: We haven’t mentioned Dax McCarty yet. I think this team goes as Dax McCarty goes. He’s the link between the back four and the attack. When you get down into what this team needs, I think he’s the most valuable player, even if that’s not reflected in the award at the end of the year.

  • Ben: I think Randall Leal finishes the year with the most goal involvement, and I think by default it’ll go to whoever leads in that category.


Bold Prediction for 2020


  • Davey: Nashville goes out and signs a DP no. 9 who costs more than Hany Mukhtar ($2.9 million)

  • Andy: Nashville signs a big name striker in the summer window.

  • Sloop: Nashville’s average attendance will be more than the capacity of the new Fairgrounds stadium (30k). And also, by the end of the season, everyone in this room will love the new Nashville SC anthem.

  • Slape: Nashville finishes the season with a Top 5 defense in the league.

  • Lucas: Daniel Ríos will finish the season with 15 goals.

  • Ben: Nashville will go into Decision Day with a chance to make the playoffs.


What does success look like in 2020?


  • Davey: Respectable performances, people in the stands.

  • Ben: Be competitive, be strong defensively, develop a decent attack, stay relevant in the playoff race, and build fan momentum

  • Slape: Success is being a competitive hard to break down team that is able to stay in games. To do this, they will need to develop a productive attack to couple with their strong defense. Build upon early fan momentum.

  • Sloop: Success really means building and learning. Some exciting wins. A galvanized fan base.

  • Andy: Being able to stifle an opponent's creativity and following the model of play Gary Smith implemented in the final season of USL, a few signature victories and/or performances, and fighting for a final playoff position in a very competitive western conference.

  • Lucas: Success looks like remaining in the playoff conversation from start to finish, big-name signings (Zimmerman, McCarty) living up to expectations, finding a consistent goalscorer, and consistent fan support.

  • Nekrasov: Success means managing fan expectations by developing a strong enough defensive system to keep the team competitive for a playoff spot while driving consistent fan engagement. Signing a forward in the summer that can lead the team for the next few years and simultaneously drive brand recognition would be a huge asset as well.

What do you think will happen in Nashville SC's inaugural season? Make your picks here.

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