Much of Nashville SC's offseason has been marked by building allocation money reserves and locking down the core of their successful roster.
Integral players Dax McCarty, Aníbal Godoy, Randall Leal and Dan Lovitz all signed new contracts to kick off the offseason, after Dave Romney and Joe Willis extended their deals last year. Nashville traded away four international spots for $250,000 of General Allocation Money (GAM) each, acquiring a total of $1 million in allocation money. They also traded defender Alistair Johnston to CF Montréal for another $1 million GAM, the only regular contributor from last year's third-place Eastern Conference side to depart.
Now, Nashville feel they're in a position where they don't necessarily have to make any more moves but have the resources to take a big swing if the right opportunity presents itself.
“We feel really good about the guys we’re bringing back," general manager Mike Jacobs said Tuesday during a media conference call. "We feel really good about the fact at some point if we feel like we want to refresh or upgrade the roster at some point, we have roster spots, international spots and a war chest of GAM. ... At this stage, we head to Bradenton (for preseason) to try and take inventory of the group of guys we have.”
Davis, who played every single minute for RBNY last year, joins a strong central midfield group with McCarty, Godoy and Brian Anunga. He has played a key role for several different Red Bull teams that were strong defensively. Nashville are known for their defensive prowess, setting a new league record for fewest goals conceded by an expansion team in 2020 and then giving up the joint-fewest goals in MLS last year, tied with Seattle Sounders FC and Davis' RBNY.
“Sean is someone who is really well thought of around the league," Jacobs said. "What he offers on both sides of the ball, on and off the field, he’s a guy who has NSC DNA. To add someone who can be a linchpin in our group, to pair him with Anibal, Dax and Anunga as well as continuing to build our spine defensively.”
With Davis, NSC dipped into their reservoir of assets to accentuate the core.
They did a bit more of that at the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, sending the Colorado Rapids $125k of GAM (and a further $50k performance-based incentives) to swap from No. 26 to No. 10 and select UCLA defender Ahmed Longmire.
“We were hoping to double-down on our ability to identify talent and grab someone in a spot, potentially undervalued players and try to (move up and) acquire them," Jacobs said.
Nashville have done that before in the SuperDraft: Johnston was a selection in 2020, while No. 2 overall pick that year Jack Maher became a key starter last year. And in 2022, Jacobs believes his club got a steal.
"Very quickly for us, we thought the best center back on the board we were looking at was him," Jacobs said of Longmire. "To be able to strengthen our depth was really important. … We thought he fit our group the best with the tools he has.”
Club director of player personnel Chance Myers and team scout and former two-time MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara both vouched for Longmire, Jacobs said.
One more roster note: Nashville still have an open Designated Player spot. The team could fill it, or shift one of their incumbent players making more than the senior budget charge into the slot to free up more allocation money. There are U22 Initiative implications in the background as well, giving Jacobs plenty of options.
Roster flexibility has been a guiding principle from the club's initial roster build in 2020 to the addition of club-record signing Ake Loba last summer. Loba, an Ivorian striker, arrived from Liga MX's CF Monterrey for a club-record $6.8 million. Their other DP is 2021 MVP finalist Hany Mukhtar.
“Unlike other sports in our country in collecting draft picks as assets, our league is all about allocation money," Jacobs said. "To now have this kind of allocation money… to increase our war chest alongside the players we already have, is a really encouraging spot for our third season. We’re excited."