Wiebe: Projecting Nashville SC's approach; CCL week one produced the gamut

One more week. Get ready for the marathon by spending a weekend off the couch. Your friends and family will thank you.

Nashville SC have colors, a crest and a name. Where will they fall on the expansion spending spectrum?

Nashville SC revealed their name, colors and crest ahead of 2020’s MLS expansion season this week. I am, admittedly, still working through my feelings on the crest – like the colors, like the shape, iffy on the mark – but it’s growing on me. As long as Nashvillians like it, my opinion on the matter is basically worthless.

What matters far more than a crest is the strategic direction of the team, and CEO Ian Ayre, you might remember him from his years with Liverpool, called in to ExtraTime Radio on Thursday to walk us through that direction as well as what’s to come regarding a coaching hire (expect it to be the next big announcement) and the club’s overall spend on players.

You can listen to the full interview here.

If you’re too impatient to listen, here are a couple key quotes from Ayre for you to mull over…

On where Nashville SC will fall on the MLS spending spectrum…

"We would expect to be in the upper quarter of MLS in terms of investment in the squad … [Owner John Ingram] wants to build a team to compete, not just to take part. I think that say says a lot about the direction we’ll take. We're not going to assemble a just average roster, but a roster that can deliver in every sense on the pitch. We’re coming to have a real go, and I think our fans will be excited about that."

What is your Designated Player strategy…

“Our view collectively has been that we really want players that will come here and contribute and want to be a big part of what we're creating here. I don't really see us in that kind of aging, twilight zone of players from Europe or wherever else. I think we'll be looking for a kind of younger, dynamic strategy around our DPs, but who knows -- if the right player comes along that fits a different profile, then we remain to be convinced."

If I was going to put them on the expansion spending spectrum (Minnesota, Cincinnati, LAFC, Atlanta United) from recent seasons based on that answer, I’d go with LAFC. Won’t shy away from big players but prefer those early in their prime (Carlos Vela) and trend younger with the other DP slots (Diego Rossi, Andre Horta).

For now, though, all that’s just talk. We’ll get a better idea of Nashville’s identity and spend on the field as the latest MLS expansion side builds up to Expansion Draft.

Did I biff my Concacaf Champions League contender rankings?

Yep. I’ve got no issue admitting that, though I will caution that this tournament can turn conventional wisdom on its head from one leg to the next.

Here’s where I stood before the tournament began, ranking MLS teams from most likely to make a deep run to the least:

  1. Atlanta United
  2. New York Red Bulls
  3. Toronto FC
  4. Sporting KC
  5. Houston Dynamo

Here’s are my updated rankings, with a sentence or two of justification.

1. Sporting KC – Vintage performance against Toluca. No Liga MX opponent in the quarterfinals. Judging by preseason/performance, they’re clearly determined to make a run.

2. New York Red Bulls – Professional performance in the Dominican Republic. They did what they had to do, but Santos Laguna and Julio Furch are on the other side. They won 6-2 against Marathon in Honduras.

3. Atlanta United – You can’t lose 3-1 and retain top spot. I still think their ceiling is the highest, but now Frank de Boer has to find a way to get the “revenge” he says is possible in the second leg or their run will be over before it began.

4. Houston Dynamo – Handled their business in Guatemala. Tigres lost to Saprissa. Either way, it’ll be Saprissa or Tigres if they hold serve at home vs. Guastatoya. They can do it, but they won’t be favored to.

5. Toronto FCThe result speaks for itself.

Doesn’t it seem like more domestic players are getting TAM contracts?

Kellyn Acosta. Aaron Long. Cristian Roldan. Jordan Morris. Tim Parker. Jonathan Osorio. Walker Zimmerman. All domestic players who re-signed with MLS on TAM deals.

Not so long ago, it seemed like Targeted Allocation Monday was out of reach for American and Canadian players. These days, it seems MLS teams are recognizing that they’re not just competing with the international market for new signings. They’re competing for players who are still in the league.

Sam Stejskal noticed as well, and did the digging. Here’s what he found.

Those numbers really tell the story.

Is this offseason a massive proportional increase? No. Is it still a significant development? Yes. Does it correspond with a big influx of TAM, from $1.2 million per team to $1.2 million per team plus $2.8 million is discretionary TAM that varies by team? You bet.

It’s too early to tell what all this means long-term – some of it is coincidental, as contracts come up and performance/national team call-ups provide better negotiating position – but it’s nice to see Americans and Canadians get some of the TAM pie no matter the reason.

What’s going on with the Revolution?

Brad Friedel spent much of 2018, his first in New England, talking about culture. He spent much of the last year, along with general manager Mike Burns, turning the roster over.

The Revs haven’t made the playoffs in three years. This is a big year for the club, for Friedel and for the culture he’s building. That’s why it was more than a little shocking to see the New England first team played off the field, 6-2, by a mixed Orlando City squad in the final of the inaugural Orlando City Invitational.

“It's a reality check,” Michael Mancienne, who wore the captain’s armband, said after the loss. “We all need to wake up. The season is right around the corner now.”

“It doesn't matter if it's a preseason game. Every game from now until the season is a game that we need to win to get momentum going into the season. It's a hard lesson. It's a hard pill to swallow, to be honest. We have to take that lesson and we've got to move forward now and pick ourselves up."

For Revs supporters’ sake, here’s hoping Mancienne’s strong words were more boilerplate reaction to a disappointing result than early alarm bells about what’s to come in 2019. If it’s the latter, it’ll be another long year.

What’s the coolest soccer thing I saw on the internet this week?

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