Nashville SC completed the first phase of preseason training camp presented by Vanderbilt Health this week after nearly three weeks in Tampa, Florida.
With less than a month to go until kickoff against NYCFC on Feb. 25 at GEODIS Park, Head Coach Gary Smith spoke about the progress his squad is making in preseason.
New Faces Showing Up
General Manager Mike Jacobs added a few new pieces to the team ahead of this season, including veteran MLS winger Fafà Picault, who scored in the club’s 2-1 preseason friendly win over the USMNT U20s.
Smith says he’s been happy with what he’s seen from Picault in the early weeks.
“Fafà, as you might expect, is an explosive wide player,” Smith said. “He’s been very eye-catching and looked very bright early on in preseason. Really pleased with his addition.”
The club also added defender Nick DePuy from the LA Galaxy after trading Dave Romney to the New England Revolution in exchange for $525,000 in General Allocation Money. The trade also offers a big chance for center back Jack Maher to cement a starting spot alongside Walker Zimmerman.
“For us, it was an opportunity economically to add something to the allocation pot knowing that we have a very good young center back in Jack Maher coming through,” Smith said. “Is it his time to step into that void? I think there’s a good a chance as any for Jack to be able to do that. I think the addition of Nick DePuy has been a good one as well. If you look at what Nick has achieved, what he represents, some of the qualities that Nick has, I think that back line looks as competitive as it has been.”
After being acquired on loan from Toronto FC in August 2022, this is winger Jacob Shaffelburg’s first preseason with Nashville SC. The club acquired him permanently in October.
The dynamic Canadian international made an immediate impact upon arriving in Nashville, scoring in his debut on Aug. 21 vs. FC Dallas. Smith says Shaffelburg has the chance to get even better with a full preseason under his belt.
“I’ve been delighted with what I’ve seen out of Jacob so far,” Smith said. “Do I think he can improve, add more goals and assists? Absolutely. I think the preseason will do him the world of good to get him a better understanding of some of the faces around him. We’ve looked at one or two slightly different things, even at this point in preseason, in possession. We’ll certainly work through different phases of the game as preseason moves on. I would expect him to be a real important fixture of the group. His athleticism, pace and individual moments can change the course of a game in the blink of an eye.”
Hany’s Back For More
Coming off his second-straight 20+ goal campaign culminating in the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award, attacker Hany Mukhtar enters his fourth MLS season with lofty goals.
When Smith was asked if his #10 would be able to replicate his form again in 2023, his answer was definitive.
“The straight answer is yes, of course [he] is,” Smith said. “He’s had back-to-back years now with 20+ goals and double-digit assists. He’s more than capable of doing that.”