One of Nashville SC’s top signings is Justin Davis. The three-time NASL Best XI fullback comes to Nashville after playing the 2017 season in the MLS for Minnesota United FC. We asked Davis about how he picked Nashville SC, his MLS experience and what he expects to accomplish this season.
GG: How did Nashville approach you and what went into your decision making process to sign with the club?
Davis: Following the other leagues throughout the country and having the opportunity to do a little market research for the International Champions Cup match that took place here over the summer is how I first became aware of Nashville SC. Learning more about the club and the people they were bringing in, like Court, James, Mike, and Gary, you could see that the club was making all the right moves and gaining momentum throughout the year. I had a feeling my time in Minnesota would be coming to end and asked my agent, Matt Cairns, if he knows anything about the club and he initiated the talks from there.
I think looking at all the turmoil that is surrounding some of the other clubs around US soccer, in particularly the NASL, I wanted to find a club that had a long-term vision and ability to make it happen. Nashville checked all of boxes, and I think it is the perfect time to be joining the club.
GG: You spent seven seasons in Minnesota, how big of a change is it moving to Nashville?
Davis: It’s a massive change. Not only for myself, but for my wife as well. Minnesota will always have a special place in my heart, and I was fortunate enough to create a lot of great memories there. I think after seven years in one place a change of scenery can be refreshing and help you grow, and that’s exactly what I hope happens in Nashville. We have only had the opportunity to check out the city for 48 hours, but we could tell that this place had a certain buzz and energy around it. It’s something that we are extremely excited about.
GG: What excites you the most about Nashville as a city and how different is it from Minneapolis?
Davis: YOU GUYS BARELY HAVE SNOW! All kidding aside, I think this is an incredible time to be moving to Nashville. I was able to catch glimpses of the city with the Predators in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the way the city rallied around the team was incredible. Being able to create that same support for Nashville SC and learning about the fans and supporters groups will be exciting for me. I like to think I had a great relationship with the fans in Minnesota, and I hope that we can replicate that here in Nashville and create a one-of-a-kind experience for everyone to get behind.
GG: What do you hope to bring to Nashville SC and do you have any personal goals for this season?
Davis: I hope to bring a certain level of grit and experience to the club. I’ve been fortunate to have some successes throughout my career and was extremely disappointed with how things played out last season for myself. Before that I was a three-time Best XI player in the NASL and nominated for MVP twice. My goal this year is to get back to that level and help lead the club in any way I can. I think the goals for the club should be extremely high given the squad that we are putting together and the fact that we are an expansion side should not make a difference.
GG: Looking at Nashville SC’s current roster, which players stand out the most to you?
Davis: I think the coaching and technical staff have done a wonderful job of constructing a competitive roster for the inaugural season. You look at guys who bring a ton of experience like Matt Pickens and Kosuke Kimura which will certainly help the squad as the season progresses. I think it’s also important to have some young, talented guys who will want to prove themselves this year so that will be fun to watch as well. Having a good balance of the two is essential.
GG: You have been reunited with fellow Lobo, how excited are you to be on the same team again with Michael Reed? How will this relationship translate on the pitch?
Davis: I’ve always been a fan of Reed and love having him as a teammate. The guy is a true pro in terms of his preparation and determination. It’s hard to say exactly how our reunion will translate on the pitch, but I think we both have an understanding of what it takes to be successful on the field, and I think those are the types of players Gary and the rest of the staff want here in Nashville.
GG: You’ve never played for head coach Gary Smith, what are your expectations?
Davis: I think Gary will be extremely demanding on the players but will also have their backs no matter what. That’s all you can ask for as a player, and I know he will demand a lot out of myself, so I am ready to rise up to that challenge.
GG: Reed played under Smith for the Atlanta Silverbacks, did he give you any insights into Smith’s coaching style?
Davis: Not so much in terms of his coaching style, but I did reach out to Mike before speaking with Gary initially, and he had nothing but great things to say. Hearing that from him was a big factor in helping make my decision.
GG: What did you learn last season playing in the MLS for Minnesota United FC and is there anything you will apply from that experience as a member of Nashville SC?
Davis: I think you learn that the game can always be played faster and that you can always demand more from yourself and your teammates. I learned that there is a difference between leagues, but that the difference can be extremely small at times. It’s the little things, like positioning, playing the ball a half second earlier, or taking advantage of chances that go on to make the biggest differences in games. Being exposed to all this at the highest level will help me here in Nashville and hopefully lead us to a lot of wins.
GG: You have played most of your professional career at left back, what do you like most about this position and what are its challenges?
Davis: I think outside backs have helped transform the game a lot in recent years. The expectations of being able to defend strikers and wide midfielders, but also be an important part of the attack for the team is something that I’ve always loved about the position. We don’t always get the write-up or spots on the stat sheet, but outside back is one of the most demanding positions on the field.
GG: What have you been working on in the offseason to prepare yourself for the 2018 season?
Davis: I can tell you there is no one more motivated for the 2018 season than myself. Like I said, I was extremely disappointed with how last year went and that helped drive me to work even harder this off-season. Doing double-days and just making sure my body is in the best shape possible to start the year will help me be ready for the season opener in Louisville.
GG: What message do you have for Nashville SC’s fans and supporter groups?
Davis: First off, all of the welcoming messages from all the fans and supporters groups were incredible and just reinforced to me that this was the right move, so thank you for those. Secondly, does anyone have a beer or cider for me? I had a great tradition/understanding with our fans in Minnesota, and I hope to keep that going down here in Nashville.
GG: Nashville is known as Music City, what type of music do you listen to the most and do you have any favorite artists/bands?
Davis: Everyone kept asking me if I liked country music when they found out about the move to Nashville, and luckily I do. From country to hip-hop, I like it all. There’s nothing better than live music so you might be seeing me around town checking out some local artists and taking in the scene.
GG: Do you listen to music before matches, if so what kinds of music?
Davis: I will typically just listen to whatever is playing in the locker room. I won’t be the guy controlling it so no one can get mad at me for that.
GG: Outside of soccer, do you have any notable hobbies?
Davis: Soccer takes up a good amount of time so it is hard to have too many other hobbies. I do like checking out new restaurants around town, so I will have my hands full with that this year. With Nashville being Music City, I might have to see if I can hold my own learning/playing an instrument.