MLS veterans appreciate being part of Nashville SC expansion project

Daniel Lovitz - Montreal Impact - closeup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As he built his team’s inaugural Major League Soccer roster this offseason, Nashville SC GM Mike Jacobs consistently mentioned an important principle as it relates to acquiring talent from within the league: valuing the undervalued.

Yes, Jacobs splashed transfer fees to grab headliners Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal from Denmark and Costa Rica, respectively. Inside MLS, though, he was seeking players who — for one reason or another — didn’t have quite the respect they deserved at previous stops.

Former Montreal Impact left back Daniel Lovitz, for example, was acquired in an Expansion Draft-day trade. While he picked up 13 US men’s national team caps over the course of 2019, Lovitz’s MLS rights only cost Jacobs just $100,000 in combined allocation money and an international roster slot.

“It means the world to me to be somebody that the club looked to reach out to a make a part of such a project as this,” Lovitz said. “It speaks volumes to what they think of me, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored for the opportunity. I’m grateful and humble, but energized more than anything to be in a place that I’m happy to call home and I’m looking forward to winning in these colors.”

If Lovitz is grateful to find a club that placed a high value on his skills in Nashville, he's not alone.

Center back Dave Romney made no secret when he joined on in November that he felt the Boys in Gold would appreciate him more than his previous club, LA Galaxy. That feeling still persists.

“It’s something I’ve kind of been searching for my whole career,” he admitted. “You’re reaching out for it and somebody kind of takes it, it felt really good. I’ve got to prove it now. I haven’t proven anything yet here, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

The task for Nashville’s players now is to prove Jacobs’s high evaluations are not misplaced. Former USMNT midfielder Dax McCarty was Chicago Fire FC’s captain in each of the past three seasons. As the club undergoes a reboot on and off the field, McCarty was deemed surplus to requirements, and Jacobs snagged a veteran midfielder for just $100,000 in combined allocation money and a second-round 2021 SuperDraft pick.

McCarty’s duty — especially if his leadership role is made official via the captain’s armband — is to help lead his team to success, and there’s plenty of work to do.

“Usually when you’re starting a preseason, you have a core group of players from the previous years that have played together,” he explained. “They know each other’s tendencies, they know what makes each other tick, the strengths and weaknesses of each other. We’re going to have to learn that all right now.”

Goalkeeper Joe Willis, who was part of an Expansion Draft swap with Houston Dynamo, echoes McCarty’s sentiment about start a team from scratch.

“Whenever you have an expansion team, it’s tough to know how it’s going to turn out, but I think that’s the exciting part about it,” he said. “We control our own destiny, and we get to decide what type of team we’re going to be, and what type of mentality we’re going to have going into the season.”