Nashville made a number of key acquisitions in the months prior, including Hany Mukhtar, Dax McCarty and Randall Leal, and soon the club will report to preseason and train together for the first time ahead of their MLS debut on February 29.
“I can tell you that I’m very happy to hand this group over to Gary (Smith) and have him put them on the field," GM Mike Jacobs told reporters on Thursday. "We’re not trying to build this for January for preseason, we want to build a sustainable model that’s going to keep going."
That doesn't mean the club are done adding, of course.
Nashville haven't spent all of their allocation money nor filled all their international spots. With a solid core and roster, which sits at 24 players at the moment, the club are content to move forward and see where further changes are best suited.
“I think there’s certain roles on the field that we can upgrade that would take us from a competitive team in year one to even above that," Jacobs said. "A large part is determining what role that is – it’s easy to talk about a DP No. 9 – but the reality is this is what preseason is for. That’s a big reason why we’ve been thoughtful of not spending all of our allocation money, keeping roster spots open and saving international spots. We’ve been waiting for this time to get into preseason, watch Gary put them on the field and assess them against other MLS teams in preseason. Then we’ll get a feel where we need to freshen things up. But this group as assembled right now is ready to go into preseason and be competitive with other MLS teams.”
Maher will slot into the defensive ranks as one of the club's options at center back. The Indiana University standout made 46 appearances over two seasons but Jacobs was quick to play down expectations for his rookie season.
“The reality is that Jack is a 20-year-old kid," Jacobs said. "It was only a couple years ago that you could watch Miles Robinson struggle in the USL and now you look at him and he’s as good of a center back as you’ll see in the league. It’s a process, it’s not cookie-cutter. Everyone is different in how they develop. Jack has as high a soccer IQ as anyone his age, which will serve him well. His character and leadership skills are off the charts as well. But he’s going to have to find his footing.
"It’s exciting to have young center backs like Jack and Miguel Nazarit," Jacobs continued, "but the reality is they’re both young center backs. It’ll take time for both to settle into their true potential.”
After Maher, the club twice traded back into the first round to select Alistair Johnson, a defender from Wake Forest, with the No. 11 pick then Elliot Panicco, a goalkeeper from UNC Charlotte. Those two trades cost Nashville a total of $125,000 General Allocation Money.
With their second-round pick they took Tanner Dieterich, a Clemson midfielder and Nashville native.
“We went into the draft with four players we were trying to acquire and we got all four of those guys," Jacobs said. "We had a fixed budget that we were going to spend in allocation money – which we came in under on – to acquire those picks. … We had a clear picture in what players we wanted, where we thought we could get them and what we were willing to give up to get them.”