Nashville SC will continue to build their roster for Major League Soccer tomorrow afternoon, selecting up to five players in the 2020 Expansion Draft. Like many other MLS idiosyncrasies, expansion drafts can be strange. On one hand, they're a good opportunity to pick up players at sometimes below-value prices ($50,000 in GAM, provided by the league). The draft has at times allowed teams to acquire key contributors like Tyler Miller and Latif Blessing (LAFC in 2017) or Roland Lamah (FC Cincinnati in 2018). However, just as often, teams have treated players drafted like assets, trading them to acquire other players, allocation money, or assets. Perhaps the most high-profile of these was Atlanta trading their first-round expansion pick in 2017 to Orlando for the eighth pick in the 2017 SuperDraft, where they picked Julian Gressel, who's turned into one of the most productive players in the league.
It's hard to predict what will happen tomorrow. General Manager Mike Jacobs has been open about how he views the draft. " It’s possible we could keep all five players we pick," he told us earlier this month. "It’s a better chance we keep 1 and trade 4. The idea of trading them is to acquire assets. There are plenty of good players available. Whether Nashville will select them and keep them is another question.
With all this in mind, here are a few players we think could bring good value to Nashville SC without bringing an overly high cap hit. Keep in mind, these are players we think would fit, not a prediction for who we think Nashville will pick. All of our selections below are based on the assumption that Nashville would keep the player. The full list of available players can be found here.
Ben Sweat (NYCFC)
Ben: For me, Sweat is the highest-value player in the draft. His $200k salary is well above the league minimum, but he’s one of the more consistent defenders in the league and is good with the ball. He’s also been in the US National Team picture, and could be a day 1 starter at left back.
Tyler Miller (LAFC)
Ben: Miller was one of the standout goalkeepers in MLS last season, and at 26 he has a long career ahead of him. He’s been called up to the USMNT recently, and would immediately give Nashville stability at the ‘keeper position. He’d need to be re-signed to a new and much bigger contract right off the bat, but the value he brings would be worth it. Whether or not he’s available with the second pick is another question.
Slape: For me, Tyler Miller is the obvious choice for Nashville’s first pick if he is available. A 26 year old goalkeeper who is just coming into the prime of his career is hard to turn down. Depending on who Miami selects, I expect Nashville to select Miller.
Harry Shipp (Seattle)
Ben: Shipp isn’t the flashiest name available, but he’s a consistent producer wherever he goes. He’s been a starter in the past, but played primarily off the bench in Seattle this season, in a system that will have similarities to what Gary Smith is planning for. Nashville’s primary need isn’t another attacking midfielder, but he’d be a strong option off the bench and is a proven player at this level. He’d need to be signed to a new contract off the bat, but likely wouldn’t get an increase in wages.
Brandon Vazquez (Atlanta United)
21 years old. Forward, winger. 637 minutes in 2019. 0.65 xG+xA per 69. $147k salary, $570k transfer value per TransferMarkt.
Slape: A young forward that was able to get any time on the field for the electric attack of Atlanta United is worth a look. That being said, he is a young unproven forward who is similar in profile to Daniel Rios. Miami are rumored to be quite interested in him so I would not be surprised to see him go with their first pick.
Ben: He’s played a lot in USL, but filled in for Josef Martinez when he missed time with injury this past season. He’s young, very pacey, and has loads of potential. I could see Nashville either keeping him, or trading him on for other assets - there’s demand around the league for him.
Jimmy Medranda (Sporting KC)
Slape: 25 year old MLS veteran who has the versatility to play left back, left wing and central midfield. 2019 was a tough year for Medranda as he missed a large chunk of the beginning of the season with a knee injury but came back down the stretch. He wouldn't be a day 1 starter but his versatility could prove to be invaluable. Currently on $155k per year.
Ben: It feels lazy to point out the Jacobs connection, but he’s a player who Nashville’s technical staff is familiar. He’s struggled with injuries a lot in recent years, but he’s versatile (left back, left wing, central midfield) and is a consistent producer when he plays. Feels like more of a risky pick given his injuries, but he brings a lot of upside.
Mohamed El-Munir (LAFC)
Slape: El-Munir is a solid left back who has the ability to be a day 1 starter. He was not an out and out starter for LAFC but that had more to do with the players in front of him than his ability. The probability of Nashville taking him is a bit low because if LAFC is in play for Nashville, I expect Tyler Miller to be the choice.
Ben: He was stuck behind Jordan Harvey and Diego Palacios in LAFC’s stellar defense, but he’s a solid left back with the potential to play a bigger role. He’s towards the higher end of salaries on this list, and he’s not a guaranteed starter, but has upside for sure.
Sebastien Ibeagha (NYCFC)
27 years old. Centerback. 1,108 minutes in 2019. $74k salary, $684k transfer value per TransferMarkt.
Ben: Ibeagha is one of the better center backs available in the draft. He may not be a day 1 starter, but he has potential and would fit in a supplemental roster spot. Obviously if Ben Sweat is selected, he won’t be available, but he’s a solid option if Nashville decides to go with a less expensive player.
Abu Danladi (Minnesota United)
24 years old. Forward, winger. 730 minutes in 2019. Career 11 goals, 5 assists in 2,832 minutes. $145k salary, $570k transfer value per TransferMarkt.
Slape: Former No 1 pick selected by Minnesota United in 2017. This 24 year old forward has struggled to find the heights of his talent but at only 24, there is still plenty of time for him to improve. 2 goals and 2 assists in his 830 minutes last season. While his salary may be a bit steep at $145k, he does have his green card.
Marlon Hairston (Minnesota United)
Slape: Marlon Hairston was just recently traded to Minnesota United as a part of the Darwin Quintero trade deal with Houston Dynamo. He is a pacy winger/right back who could be deployed similarly to how Darnel King was utilized in USL. He struggled to find form for Houston last year and lost his place entirely when Davy Arnaud took over in Houston. Still fairly young and could be a valuable depth piece that has a ton of MLS experience.
Zarek Valentin (Portland Timbers)
Ben: Valentin is one of the more intriguing names on this list to me. He’s solid defensively, but really good going forward. He was a regular with Portland this past season, and at $124k his wages aren’t a major cap hit. He’d be a solid option to start at right back, but would be a good depth piece as well.
Nashville SC will have the option to select up to five players, and are able to trade their selections with other MLS teams immediately following the draft. The draft will take place at 4:30 PM central on Tuesday, November 19. Fans can attend at Ole Red on Broadway, or watch live on MLSSoccer.com.