MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

State of Nashville SC, Inter Miami rosters heading into the Expansion Draft

Hany Mukhtar poses with Mikes Jacos, Ian Ayre - Nashville SC

The inaugural MLS rosters for Inter Miami and Nashville SC are coming along as both inch closer to their first matches in the league in a few months. On Tuesday, that development will speed up with the Expansion Draft. 

Each side will be able to select five players from 19 other teams across the league (see who's eligible). It'll be an exciting day, stuffed with rumors and trades on top of the 10 total players selected between the teams. 

But both clubs are already well on their way in player acquisition. Here's where both teams stand heading into Tuesday's draft:

Inter Miami

Players signed (9): Matias Pellegrini, Julian Carranza, Victor Ulloa, Christian Makoun, David Norman Jr., George Acosta, Jay Chapman, Grant Lillard, Jerome Kiesewetter

While Nashville announced a few signings first, Miami made the first big splash. Paul McDonough and co. signed a few high priced, high potential teenagers. Those players, plus a a few MLS youngsters make up their roster heading into the Expansion Draft. 

Miami, as promised, came out of the gates with a bang. Not only did they announce one highly-rated South American 19-year-old attacker, but two.

The club acquired winger Matias Pellegrini from Estudiantes for a reported $9 million transfer fee, one of the largest in MLS history. On the same day, the club rolled out Julian Carranza, a young forward from Banfield. It was quite the start.

Pellegrini and Carranza both are playing professional minutes in the Argentinian first division and will continue to do so until January when they join their new club. They’ll immediately become two of the league’s highest-rated young players, in a similar stature of Ezequiel Barco. McDonough, of course, was part of Atlanta United’s front office when the teenager was signed for a league record fee.

That pair are currently the crown jewels of the roster, though only Pellegrini will definitely occupy a Designated Player spot. Carranza might, but could also be bought down with TAM depending who else the club add.

Behind that pair, they added Venezuelan center back/defensive midfielder Christian Makoun, who was signed on loan by Juventus last year. The Italian giants didn’t trigger his purchase option at the end of the 2018/19 season, allowing Miami to swoop in.

Miami have begun to add from within the league ahead of the Expansion Draft, most notably of whom is Victor Ulloa. He spent 2018 with FC Cincinnati in their debut campaign and was a bright spot during the first half of the season after spending eight seasons with his hometown club FC Dallas

They turned to the USL Championship to sign attacking midfielder and US youth international George Acosta in September. Acosta competed in the 2017 U-17 World Cup, making two appearances and scoring one goal. He played five games with Austin Bold FC in 2019.

The rest of Miami's acquisitions follow a pattern: Homegrown players who could use a change of scenery. Ostensibly to fill the bottom of the roster, Miami acquired Jay Chapman, Grant Lillard and David Norman Jr., all with their Homegrown rights retained. On Monday, the club announced the signing of Jerome Kiesewetter. The 26-year-old forward was previously a highly-touted dual national prospect for the USMNT but injuries have hampered him. He's coming off a solid season in the USL Championship where he scored 12 goals with El Paso Locomotive FC.

Miami just launched their academy and aren’t close graduating any players to the first team. That bundle of trades may look like a shrewd piece of business in a few months.

Nashville SC

Players signed (9): Hany Mukhtar, Dax McCarty, Anibal Godoy, Randall Leal, David Accam, Dave Romney, Derrick Jones, Daniel Rios, Cameron Lancaster

Nashville were the first of the two 2020 Expansion sides start announcing signings as well as appoint a head coach, filling the club’s structure more incrementally. The club have ample MLS experience as well as a handful of young players still developing behind those vets with 2010 MLS Cup champion Gary Smith leading the side.

Hany Mukhtar is GM Mike Jacobs’ biggest acquisition and current attacking centerpiece, a German No. 10 once considered the next can’t miss European prospect and a standout at all youth national levels. The 24-year-old didn’t quite hit wunderkind levels first expected, but settled as one of the best players in the Danish league before heading to MLS. He almost joined the Seattle Sounders in 2018, too.

The base of their midfield is set between Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy, two ground covering and defensively rigid midfielders. McCarty, 32, will be leaned on as a leader in the locker room and an integral building piece for the club’s budding culture. Derrick Jones, a 22-year-old who represented the United States at various youth levels, is another option at the position.  

On the wings, Nashville already have ample pace and trickery between David Accam and Randall Leal. The former has scored 40 goals in MLS over the last five years and the latter a Costa Rican international, brought in from Saprissa.

Smith said he wants Nashville to press high and work in transition — their key players signed thus far all underline that plan. McCarty was at the base of Jesse Marsch’s high-octane New York Red Bulls side that won two Supporters’ Shields while Godoy wrapped up a season under Matias Almeyda and his hectic man-marking system.

Their first defender acquired was Dave Romney, added from the LA Galaxy, to complement a robust midfield. Able to play either center back or left back, the club envision him primarily through the middle.

Further forward, Chivas Guadalajara product Daniel Rios lit up the USL to the tune of 21 goals this season, while Cameron Lancaster added six goals in 730 minutes after winning the Golden Boot in 2018 with Louisville City FC.

Nashville have the No. 2 pick in the Expansion Draft, with Miami winning the Expansion Priority Draft coin toss and electing to take the top spot.