NASHVILLE – Nashville Soccer Club General Manager Mike Jacobs has a unique braintrust helping him build an MLS roster for 2020. It includes an MLS Cup-winning head coach in Gary Smith, a former soccer agent in Ally Mackay as assistant GM and a former MLS player turned Chief Scout in Chance Myers.
Even with four very unique backgrounds and views on the league and the sport, all four of them made it clear that they wanted midfielder Aníbal Godoy to suit up for Nashville SC in 2020.
That’s why the club swapped $650,000 in General Allocation Money with the San Jose Earthquakes for Godoy this week. He will finish the 2019 season with San Jose before coming to Nashville. Godoy was a unanimous pick among Jacobs’ staff.
“We did an exercise where the four of us went away, and we looked at our positional profiles we had and we tried to find, currently in MLS, not necessarily a Best 11, but an 11 that best fits the profiles that we had for certain areas of the field,” Jacobs said. “We went away separately, all four of us, and we came back together the next day and we put each of our 11 players on the board. There was only one player that was on all four sheets, and it was Aníbal Godoy. So he was one very early on we just kind of believed fit strongly for our project. He embodied what Gary [Smith] is looking for in a player in that role on the field, but also embodies the culture and kind of the NSC DNA that we’re going to create.”
Godoy brings a wealth of experience at both the MLS level and on the international stage. He has consistently been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS, and his distribution numbers back that up. In each of his three complete MLS seasons, he has ranked no lower than sixth amongst all MLS players in pass percentage. In 2018, he was among the best central and defensive midfielders in the league in dribbles per match (1st), interceptions per match (5th) and accurate long balls (3rd).
That type of quality, as well as his perfect fit into Jacobs’ vision for the club, made him well worth the price tag.
“The fact that expansion teams have more allocation money than existing clubs, it’s very common to see deals where players are acquired at maybe perceived higher valuations,” Jacobs said. “On the full scale, the funding was relative to how we see our interleague acquisitions will play out. The reality is we keep a pretty close eye on monetary and fiscal valuations on players, and as I mentioned, we were elated to get a consensus player that our entire staff wanted. When you look at comparing the spend on Godoy to spends of teams like [FC] Cincinnati, when they acquired a player like [Fanendo] Adi or [Kendall] Waston, Atlanta when they acquired a player like [Darlington] Nagbe, LAFC when they acquired a player like Lee Nguyen, each of those clubs spent more money on those moves than we did on this one. I think for us, if you look at our previous moves we made, and I think most would probably describe them as financially shrewd, from our standpoint we were willing to push the envelope on acquiring Godoy because we felt we needed to do so to get the player we coveted.”
On top of that, Godoy brings a wealth of international experience. He has nearly 100 caps for the Panama National Team, including starts for the team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. That’s more international caps than Adi, Waston, Nagbe and Nguyen combined.
“I think it’s an irony that some early on criticized or were critical of the idea of ‘spending wisely’ and maybe thinking it was synonymous with ‘not spending,’ now question us for overspending or spending too much,” Jacobs said. “The reality is we acquired two players who are premier players in MLS in the last five years in the last two windows in David Accam and now Godoy. We paid less than some of those other contemporaries had spent on one player.”
Godoy is the third MLS acquisition the club has made in recent months after Derrick Jones and David Accam were acquired in May. All three players have come from other MLS squads. However, don’t expect Jacobs to strictly follow that pattern when it comes to the rest of his roster. Jacobs and his staff have their eyes and ears all over the world, and will be looking around the globe for talent to fill out his roster. In particular, Jacobs noted the value of international players as forwards and attacking midfielders.
“I’ll tell you what, in some ways, announcements like this might be perceived as batting out of order from the standpoint that if we were announcing a 9 or a 10 today, people would be throwing a parade because that’s what they associate with spends,” Jacobs said. “The reality is in our league, the players in those roles, by and large, are acquired from abroad not in MLS. If you look at the top 20 in the league in goals last year, I believe 19 of them were either DPs or TAMs that were acquired from abroad.
“As far as how we're going to use our GAM, where I think it’s certainly possible that we could acquire players within the league for those roles, I think it would be naïve to expect it to happen from within the league. For us, we place value on roles that we felt we could get help from within our league, and when you look at a player like Aníbal, a two-way player maybe a ‘6’ or an ‘8’-type, that’s who we placed value in within our league that we felt we could acquire with GAM.”