By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.
NASHVILLE, TN - Nashville SC made plenty of moves on draft day, selecting second overall in the 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft and trading up to acquire the 11th and 13th overall picks as well.
Second overall, Nashville selected center back Jack Maher from Indiana University. Maher was widely regarded as the best defensive prospect in the draft, and adds depth to a Nashville backline filled with mostly veteran defenders.
A left footed, 6'2" central defender, Maher is a positionally sound and tactically intelligent player with a tremendous amount of upside. He's the only naturally left-footed defender on the roster behind Dave Romney, giving him an advantage with a coach who has historically preferred a left-footed and right-footed pairing.
As is fairly common with 20-year-olds, Maher lacks a bit of muscle mass, and is able to be bodied off the ball by a more physically dominant striker. He reads the game well, and makes up for a lack of flat out physical dominance by cutting out plays before they become dangerous. He's also a threat off of set pieces, scoring four goals and assisting two more in the 2019 season.
He's able to hit a good-looking diagonal ball, but his on the ball skills could be cleaned up a bit, and he's not going to start passing moves from the back immediately. With a composed passing center back like Romney ahead of him, he has a good model to learn from.
Nashville sent $75,000 in General Allocation Money to Colorado Rapids for the 11th overall pick and selected Alistar Johnston, a versatile defender from Wake Forest. A 21-year-old senior, Johnston is primarily a right back, but can play anywhere up the right wing as well as in central midfield. Johnston played two years at St. John's, starting 36 games with 10 goals and four assists, before transferring to Wake Forest, where he appeared in each of his team's 43 matches, scoring six goals and assisting 10 more.
Johnston adds depth the a right back group featuring a 34-year-old Brayan Beckeles and Eric Miller. A native of Ontario, Canada, it's unclear if he'll occupy an international roster spot.
Nashville once again traded up in the pecking order, sending $50,000 in allocation money to New England Revolution, plus an additional $50,000 based on certain performance incentives. In return, Nashville acquired the 13th overall pick and selected goalkeeper Elliot Panicco from UNC Charlotte. Panicco is a 6'5" 'keeper, who allowed just 14 goals in 20 appearances his senior year. Listed by SBI as the top goalkeeper in the draft, Pannico is 23 years old, meaning he'll be eligible for Nashville's reserve roster for just a single season.
With the 28th overall pick, Nashville selected Tanner Dieterich, a midfielder/defender from Clemson. Fans of the Boys In Gold will be familiar with the name - Dieterich played for Nashville SC's U-23 side in 2017.
A Nashville native, Dieterich played at Father Ryan Academy before playing in the IMG Academy's residency program in Bradenton, Florida. He appeared in 20 matches for Clemson in 2019, assisting 10 goals and chipping in with three of his own.
Dieterich is a physical presence in the center of the pitch, capable of playing both in midfield and defense. He'll fight for a spot on the senior roster in preseason with the potential to be loaned to a USL Championship side to develop at the professional level.