National Writer: Charles Boehm

Nashville SC get their DP: Sam Surridge "tailor-made" to lead attack with Hany Mukhtar


As much as Nashville SC have gotten right since entering MLS in 2020, their striker corps has seen more ins and outs than a honky-tonk bar on a typical Friday night on Broadway.

Aké Loba, Jhonder Cádiz, Daniel Rios, CJ Sapong and Dominique Badji are among those to audition for the starting No. 9 job, none quite fitting the bill despite escalating financial outlays, even with reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar routinely weaving magic as NSC’s playmaker extraordinaire.

The Coyotes are hoping that long-running search is over with the acquisition of new Designated Player Sam Surridge, the 25-year-old Englishman unveiled at GEODIS Park just before their Leagues Cup match vs. Toluca Thursday night.

“Someone with the profile of Sam, the role he plays, the expected impact he can have in our group, really, it’s an exciting opportunity for our whole club to think about what this means going forward,” Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs told reporters.

NSC view Surridge as a powerful target man who can play with his back to goal as well as race into space behind opposing defenses, and the AFC Bournemouth academy product emphasized his willingness to put in a shift as he joins their blue-collar squad. He should also benefit from head coach Gary Smith being a countryman.

“All the lads, you can see they all work hard for him, all work hard for the club, they all buy into that and I think he knows I'm going to fit the mold of that,” said Surridge of Smith. “He knows I'm going to complement the team well. Yeah, he just sold it like he really wants me and I think that was part of it, coming here – he really wanted me, the club wanted me.

“He said you can get loads of chances, and I've just got to finish them off now.”

Sitting fourth in the MLS Eastern Conference standings as Mukhtar leads the Golden Boot presented by Audi race with 13g/8a heading into the Leagues Cup pause, NSC have big ambitions for the season’s home stretch. Limited productivity from the spearhead of their attack has been a drag on those hopes up to this point, so the expectation is the new arrival can multiply the damage Mukhtar has been inflicting on MLS back lines.

“The idea of not only having somebody who’s a target player or striker or a goalscorer, it was trying to look and see what attributes best fit with Hany,” said Jacobs.

“We talk about cohesion a lot and the idea of having someone with good link-up play, for us, I think looking for a center forward who can not only play as a target, you can play into him and get it back, but also he can play on the back shoulder, he can run in behind. So much we do is in transition, scoring off the break. I think Sam’s kind of tailor-made his game for how our team plays.”

Surridge understands that aspect of the assignment.

“He’s an amazing player, I’ve seen a lot of highlights of him and I think I can work well,” he said of Mukhtar. “We can work really well off of each other. He's not just someone who can score goals, he can assist them and hopefully he can assist me, I can assist him. He’s a technician, and yeah, he’s a great player … reigning MVP, looking to do it again, and hopefully I can help him do that.”

Surridge scored goals regularly in the English Championship with Bournemouth, Swansea City and Stoke City before finally getting a taste of the Premier League last season at Nottingham Forest. Yet he’s been charmed by the chance to head west for a different sort of adventure in the Music City, a destination he said he knew from its country-music industry ties, but was surprised to find has become a dense, bustling metropolis via many years of dramatic growth.

The arrival of icon Lionel Messi at Inter Miami CF only helped seal his decision.

“Obviously, the league’s growing now. I think you can see that with Messi going to Miami,” said the former English youth international. “I just wanted somewhere where I can kind of express myself, and the way they sold that to me, I can come here and play, and then grow with the team. I know it’s getting bigger and bigger every year. … We can grow together.

“Hopefully I go on to break records here and it’s all going to be happy,” he later added. “There’s going to be bumps along the way and I know that, I’m not naive. But I’m excited for the challenge.”