A former MLS defender headlines the latest round of additions to Nashville SC’s roster announced by the team Thursday morning. The group includes three defenders and a midfielder as Nashville SC prepares for its inaugural season.
Justin Davis joins Nashville SC after seven seasons at Minnesota United, a side that debuted in the MLS last year. Davis, a fullback, served as the team’s vice captain in 2017, but the club declined his contract option after the season. Davis played in eight games for the Loons, starting five. He was an unused sub for the Loons’ final 13 contests.
Prior to the Loons’ entry into the MLS, Davis earned three consecutive inclusions in the NASL’s Best XI and led all defenders in scoring in 2015 (with five goals).
Analysis of Davis’s play, per the MLS website:
One of the first two MLS signings by the Loons, Davis plays as a left back who has provided Minnesota with a versatile attacking option from the wings as well as formidable defense. His speed and skill on the ball creates space for his teammates, and provides service into the middle as a chance creator. On the other end of the pitch, Davis harasses opposing midfielders on the outside with solid defensive work and punishing slide tackles.
Davis’ Twitter account (@DouginDavis) already features a cover photo of the Nashville skyline, and he tweeted cryptically about Nashville as far back as Dec. 1.
Defensive midfielder Bolu Akinyode has spent the entirety of his young career in the second tier of U.S. soccer. The Nigeria national played stints with Red Bulls II, Bethlehem and North Carolina FC (NASL) before landing in Nashville. Akinyode’s lone career goal comes against a future rival for the Boys in Gold — he tallied the game-winner for RBII against Louisville City in 2015 (video is at the 1:16 mark).
Philadelphia Union blog The Brotherly Game praises Akinyode’s “mix of strength and finesse,” saying he “displayed a good amount of…two-way skill on the ball” during his time in Bethlehem.
You can follow Akinyode on Twitter at @_boluakinyode.
Defender Michael DeGraffenreidt carries more than a long last name: He also possesses elite prospect pedigree and a little injury baggage.
A star center back at The University of Louisville, DeGraffenreidt went to New York City FC in the third round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. An injury in preseason training sent him to the sidelines, and he’ll attempt a reboot in Nashville.
Per Sounder at Heart’s 2017 draft preview, DeGraffenreidt “is undersized for MLS, coming in at 5’10”. He is strong and good in the air, making up for the height, but likely projects more as an outside back moving forward.”
Here are highlights from Graff’s senior year at Louisville.
DeGraffenreidt is on Twitter at @Mike_NO_Ike03.
Defender Josh Hughes spent last season playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Now, he comes back outside to play for his second USL side (he played in 22 matches for Harrisburg in 2016).
Hughes has had a journeyman minor-league career with stints in Atlanta (2015) and London (2012-14).
No, not that London. London, Ontario.
Hughes is a central defender whom the team will rely on for depth in 2018.
Here are Hughes’ highlights with the Silverbacks:
The team now has three midfielders and six defenders on the roster, in addition to two goalies and two forwards. Expect the squad to make more player announcements soon.
NASHVILLE (Jan. 4, 2018) – Nashville SC of the United Soccer League (USL) announced the signing of former Minnesota United defender Justin Davis alongside midfielders Bolu Akinyode and Josh Hughes and defender Michael DeGraffenreidt, pending USL and federation approval.
“All four of these defensive players will bring passion and energy on the pitch,” head coach Gary Smith said. “They will fortify our defense and have big impacts on the club.”
Davis, 29, comes to Nashville SC after playing for Minnesota United the previous seven seasons, the last of which in Major League Soccer (MLS). He was one of Minnesota’s first two signings as a North American Soccer League (NASL) club and served as vice captain for the squad in the team’s inaugural MLS season. Davis made 171 appearances for Minnesota United, holding the club record, and was main stay on the back line. Contributing nine goals throughout his Minnesota career, Davis was a part the club’s 2011 NASL Soccer Bowl Championship and was named to NASL’s Best XI teams in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Akinyode, 23, is a defensive midfielder from Lagos, Nigeria. After coming up through the New York Red Bulls Academy, Akinyode made his debut for Red Bulls II in 2015. Akinyode then moved to Bethlehem Steel FC of the USL in 2016 and North Carolina FC of the NASL in 2017. He has appeared at the international level appearing for Nigeria’s U-14 team and was called up to participate in the U.S. Men’s National Team U-20 training camp in 2012. He created eight chances from his defensive position last season including an assist for North Carolina.
DeGraffenreidt, 23, will make his professional debut for Nashville SC. After a stellar four-year career at Louisville, the defender was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 MLS Super Draft by New York City FC. While training in preseason with NYCFC, DeGraffenreidt suffered a knee injury and has spent the last year rehabbing. While at Louisville, he made 76 starts including 18 as a senior. He was a part of 10 shutouts that year and led Louisville to a No. 6 national ranking to finish the season.
Hughes, 26, brings NASL and USL defensive experience to Nashville SC. After making 12 appearances in 2015 for Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL, Hughes transitioned to Harrisburg City Islanders of USL where he made 22 appearances totaling over 1,300 minutes in 2016. Last season, he played in the Major Arena Soccer League for the Baltimore Blast.