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 defenders 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 a 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.
Coach Smith's Thoughts: "Justin joins us with a terrific pedigree, having won NASL Championships and MLS appearances on his resume with Minnesota United. He brings a tough, no nonsense, defending attitude, great athletic ability and a cannon of a left foot. I expect his experience and strong character to be a big influence on our back line."
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 playing 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.
Coach Smith's Thoughts: "Bolu is a genuine defensive midfielder and with his physical size and strength, he performs the role very well. Don't think that this lad is all brawn though, he has very good ability for a big guy and looks comfortable with the ball at his feet. A young NYRB & National Team product, Bolu has the calibre to have a big impact on the USL."
DeGraffenreidt, 23, will make his professional debut for Nashville SC. After a stellar four-year career ending 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. 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.
Coach Smith's Thoughts: "A young, athletic and competitive right-side defender, Michael has the ability to play outside back or centre back and has the potential to make a big impact in our group. He reminds me very much of Marvel Wynne, pacy and very competitive."
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 Baltimore Blast.
Coach Smith's Thoughts: "Josh is an all-action centre midfielder. In all my coaching years in soccer, I have seen few players with a more dedicated and genuine attitude. Expect energy, tackles, great team play ... and more energy."