By Ben Wright, editor.
2020 has not been the expansion season Nashville SC were anticipating.
Just two games into their inaugural season in MLS, the highest level of soccer in the country, COVID-19 shut down sports around the globe. For a brand new team trying to build a winning roster and feed off of the buzz of 60,000 fans at the home opener, it's a tough pill to swallow.
Nashville planned on making additions to their roster in the summer transfer window, potentially some major additions. They had already chased striker Aké Loba in the winter, bidding as high as $5-6 million before losing out to Mexican giants Monterrey. They brought in midfielder Hany Mukhtar for just under $3 million, and spent up to $1.25 million in allocation money on defender Walker Zimmerman. Clearly, they're not afraid to spend money if the timing and the player is right.
With leagues around the world struggling to find a way to resume play, the summer transfer window is a big question mark. Will it happen? When will it happen? Will players be available if the leagues they play in are still in progress?
“The advice that [Nashville SC CEO] Ian Ayre gave me really is kind of just to operate status quo," said General Manager Mike Jacobs on a conference call with local media last week. "The players we’re talking to, guys who are scheduled to be free come the summer window in other countries, clubs that have players under contract, potential transfers... we have to just keep going along as we normally do."
The club's scouting department continues to evaluate the current roster and monitor transfer targets, all while working remotely. It's possible that Nashville could still add players this summer, and while they have identified targets to pursue in the short term, FIFA and MLS have yet to determine how the window will proceed.
This uncertainty has caused the technical staff to put even more emphasis on future transfer windows. "For the most part, we’re focusing on 2021 and even 2022 in our recruitment," said Jacobs. "Where it’s been frustrating to be off the field, I think this time we’ve had during this moratorium has allowed us to dedicate more time to watching players, domestically and abroad, and prepare short-term for the 2020 season, and primarily to get ahead for 2021."
Jacobs has talked about having a "war chest" of allocation and transfer money in reserve, and if they're not able to spend it this year, they'll head into their second season with a strong core already established. "It’s exciting that this time last year, we had two players under contract: both Daniel Ríos and Cameron Lancaster," Jacobs pointed out. Now they have a full roster and a strong core of players like Zimmerman, Dave Romney, Aníbal Godoy and Dax McCarty (who Jacobs said was one of the club's first targets), and Hany Mukhtar.
Nashville will continue to analyze their roster and identify targets, but the technical staff is optimistic that the club will come out of this enforced break more ready for the future.
"To see where we are right now and to have essentially a second preseason, more opportunity and more time to prepare ourselves, I like the fact of knowing that we have a chance to not only catch up with the rest of the league, but potentially get ahead in some areas, as well."