Will Nashville SC's forwards keep up the tempo?
First of all, we regret the headline above and promise that this will be the last pun to do with Nashville SC's location in the Music City. Second, and much more importantly, Nashville SC have assembled quite an interest set of attackers that could be the salvation of their maiden season in MLS. Let's take a look, shall we?
The signing of Hany Mukhtar from Brondby certainly made us sit up and pay attention. The former Salzburg starlet and Germany U21 international CAM only cost $3m, but he's shown flashes of being a far more valuable player. Both in the Danish Superliga and in the Europa League, he had extraordinarily high attacking output until earlier this season, when he appeared to lose interest before his move:
Mukhtar's attacking comes from a nice mix of passing, dribbling, and shooting, which is just as well as he's been a poor finisher. He's just short of 25 years old now, and only a couple of years ago was attracting the attention of clubs in Europe's top five leagues – in fact there was some puzzlement that he stayed at Brondby as long as he did. The move to MLS may have diminished expectations somewhat, but make no mistake – he is capable of big things.
Ahead of Mukhtar, Nashville will have some combination drawn from up to five strikers. The notable names are MLS castoffs Dominique Badji, who's coming off a disappointing season for Dallas but did command a small fee, and Abu Danladi, who was underused at Minnesota and taken with Nashville's first pick in the expansion draft. Because neither Badji nor Danladi has an obvious lock on a starting position, despite being good finishers, don't discount the holdovers from Nashville's USL days. Daniel Rios in particular has had encouraging ratings on both sides of the ball by an MLS standard, and even the veteran Cameron Lancaster may have something to offer. Here's a quick comparison:
On the wings, David Accam will be hoping to get back into his scoring groove after joining from Columbus, where the onetime MLS star was rather peripheral last season. He may be 29, but his attacking output hasn't suffered much in our metrics, and he's still a deadly finisher:
Accam will get some competition at the LW spot from Randall Leal, formerly of Saprissa in Costa Rica, whose numbers look pretty good at an MLS standard as well. In fact, there might even be competition for space on the left during matches, since several of the nominally central players have enjoyed straying into that area as well.
Overall, the situation in the front half of the pitch looks a bit more settled than in the back, though it's not clear yet who'll play on the right in attack. There's still time for Nashville to sign more players, of course, when the MLS primary transfer window opens in mid-February. For now, we think the club will find its feet without setting the league afire.