Joe Willis Graphic, 12.9.19


NASHVILLE -  There’s no substitute for experience.

That’s exactly what Nashville SC has in goalkeeper Joe Willis, who was acquired in a trade following the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft. The 31-year-old has been a part of two MLS clubs and has seen the league evolve in his near-decade of work. Now, he’ll be bringing that experience to help anchor a defense navigating its first season together in MLS.

Here’s everything you need to know about Willis.

The Basics

Name: Joe Willis
Position: Goalkeeper
How Acquired: Acquired from the Houston Dynamo in exchange for Zarek Valentin on Nov. 19, 2019
Height: 6’5’’
Weight: 189
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Past Clubs: Houston Dynamo, D.C. United
College: University of Denver

Three Things to Know

From Backup to Starter – Willis began his career at D.C. United as a backup to longtime keeper Bill Hamid, but shined in his chances to start in the nation’s capital. With Hamid away with the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team in May 2012, Willis filled in and excelled. He cemented his place in D.C. United lore when he was forced into action during the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs after Hamid was given a straight red card for a challenge on a breakaway against New York Red Bulls. Willis came in and stopped the subsequent penalty and went on to lead the team to an aggregate victory over D.C. United’s fiercest rival.

After Willis joined the Houston Dynamo, he won the starting job in 2016 and became a regular for the Dynamo throughout his five seasons.

Ballin’ in the Playoffs – Throughout his career, Willis has stepped up in the MLS Cup Playoffs when called upon. Following his heroics in the 2012 playoffs with D.C. United, he started one more playoff match during that run in relief of Hamid. With Houston, he also made three playoff starts in 2017 as the Dynamo reached the Western Conference Finals.

Making Plays in the Community – Willis was heavily involved in community initiatives while with the Dynamo, particularly with the club’s Special Olympics Unified team, which promotes social inclusion by uniting people with intellectual disabilities and those without them on and off the pitch. Willis participated in the Unified program for most of his tenure in Houston, helping with the tryouts and volunteering with the team.


What They’re Saying
GM Mike Jacobs

“I think it’s pretty easy to see we placed a high value on guys having extensive experience in MLS. What Joe has done throughout his career in the league, in U.S. Open Cup and in CONCACAF Champions League gives him experience that’s really important for a first-year team to have.”

“Willis has been one of the league's busier backup 'keepers, first getting a run at D.C. United before joining the Dynamo ahead of the 2015 season. Got his first extended run as a starter in 2016, filling in for the injured Tyler Deric. A strong shot-stopper, he will look to be a starter in Nashville.”

Joe Willis

The Double Save, September 2019