From the MLS to Music City: Analyzing Top-flight experience on Nashville SC’s roster

For aspiring performers, Music City is Mecca.

Songwriters, crooners and divas flock to the heart of Tennessee for their shot at glory, often carrying nothing more than a guitar and a oversized sense of ability.

But for a handful of players on Nashville SC’s roster, the city represents a chance to get back to the big-time, or at the very least to remain relevant in the Beautiful Game. Among the 17 players signed to the squad, three are former Major League Soccer players. Two of them have an MLS Cup on their resumes (both with Colorado in 2010 under Nashville Coach Gary Smith). The other served as a vice captain in his lone MLS season.

So, what does that experience look like on paper, and how can Nashville SC expect to benefit from these players’ top-flight experience?

Let’s take a look at Nashville SC’s three players with MLS experience.

Matt Pickens — Goalie

  • Overview of Experience
    • 35 years old
    • 156 games (154 starts)
    • Chicago Fire: 2004-2007
    • Colorado Rapids: 2009-2013
  • MLS Statistics
    • 57-56-42
    • 1.23 GAA
    • 42 clean sheets (26.9% of games)
  • Championships / Honors
    • 2006 U.S. Open Cup (Chicago)
    • 2010 MLS Cup (Colorado)
    • Led MLS in save percentage — 2006
    • MLS Player of the Month — 2006
    • Colorado Rapids MVP — 2012
    • Colorado Rapids Fan Favorite Award — 2012
  • Analysis
    • Pickens was once regarded as one of the top American goalkeepers and is still highly respected throughout the professional ranks and among fans. At 35 years old, he is on the back end of his career and has found a successful niche in the second tier. In 102 matches with Tampa Bay in the NASL and USL, he maintained a similar goals against average (1.28) to his numbers with Colorado. Pickens has shown impressive durability — he played in 29 matches with Tampa Bay last season and has played in at least 24 games each of the past three seasons.
  • How MLS experience will help the club
    • Assuming Pickens beats out C.J. Cochran for the starting role — which is by no means guaranteed — Pickens would provide the defense with a steady hand and firm voice. Keepers do much more than keep goals out of the net. They’re also vital in organizing the back line and starting the attack. Pickens’ longevity, championship pedigree and poise suggest he is an ideal candidate to lead a collection of new teammates toward stronger chemistry.

Kosuke Kimura — Fullback

  • Overview of Experience
    • 33 years old
    • 171 games (150 starts)
    • Colorado Rapids: 2007-2012
    • Portland Timbers: 2012
    • New York Red Bulls: 2013-2014
  • MLS Statistics
    • 5 goals, 14 assists
    • No red cards
  • Championships / Honors
    • 2010 MLS Cup (Colorado)
    • Colorado Rapids Humanitarian of the Year — 2010
  • Analysis
    • Like Pickens, Kimura is in the second half of his career and has been out of the MLS for multiple seasons. We shouldn’t expect him to receive much attention from the top flight, where he hasn’t played since 2014. We should, however, expect him to serve as a productive fullback. He went all 90 minutes in 20 matches for Tulsa last year, a season in which the Roughnecks ranked in the top third of the league in clean sheets.
  • How MLS experience will help the club
    • First of all, Kimura was extremely disciplined in the top flight. He never received a red card and earned only nine yellows in 176 MLS matches. That steady play has largely translated to the second level, where he’s received eight yellows (and no reds) in 87 contests. While Kimura will occasionally put his foot into an effective longball like this epic golazo, he will typically serve as a distributor and defensive-minded leader. When Tulsa signed him last year, the team had him in mind for a coaching position after he retired.

Justin Davis — Fullback

  • Overview of Experience
    • 29 years old
    • 8 games (5 starts)
    • Minnesota United: 2017
  • MLS Statistics
  • Honors
    • Named Vice Captain of 2017 Minnesota United squad
  • Analysis
    • There isn’t much to glean from Davis’s brief MLS tenure. He began the season as the team’s starting left back but only started five games, playing the full 90 in four matches (three of which were in the first five games of the season). Davis went unused in the final 13 games of the season. In the five games where Davis received significant minutes, the Loons surrendered 10 total goals and went 1-2-2 with one clean sheet.
  • How MLS experience will help the club
    • Nashville surely hopes Davis’s rocky season at American soccer’s highest level will help the game slow down for him at the second tier. At 29, there could still be a top-flight future for the Michigan native if he is effective for the Boys in Gold. He has been reliable at the second level; in six NASL seasons (152 games), Davis notched eight goals and eight assists from the fullback spot. In 2011 he helped lead his team to the NASL championship.

Nashville SC has signed a compelling mix of top-tier pros, youngsters and second-division veterans. If the team can harness the experience of these three former MLS squad members, it will be one step closer to success in its first season.

Tomorrow, we’ll dig a little deeper and see how relevant these players’ top-level experience is by looking at the last four USL Cup winners. Be sure to give it a read!


3 thoughts on “From the MLS to Music City: Analyzing Top-flight experience on Nashville SC’s roster

  1. Pingback: How important is MLS experience in the USL? | Golden Goal

  2. Pingback: Nashville SC adds 20-year-old striker, two defenders to roster | Golden Goal

  3. Pingback: Young hopefuls seek to benefit from teammates’ experience | Golden Goal

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