Liam Doyle launches a ball through the rain-soaked February air towards the rising head of Tucker Hume.
Simultaneously, Alan Winn begins a blazing run down the left wing and quickly gets a perfect feed from Hume. A few strides later, Winn lays the ball of to Ropapa Mensah, who chips it over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net for Nashville SC’s first-ever professional goal.
That combination against Atlanta United in Nashville SC’s first preseason friendly will live on in Nashville sporting lore, but the run-up to that goal began a long way from First Tennessee Park and before professional soccer in Nashville was even a fleeting thought.
It began four years ago on Tobacco Road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Hume and Winn found themselves as newcomers on the University of North Carolina men’s soccer team.
Their journey from college roommates to professional teammates has been anything but ordinary.
From Lone Stars to Tar Heels
Both Winn and Hume were born in the Dallas, Texas area and grew up in soccer circles in the Metroplex. Hume is two years older than Winn, so they never had the chance to play against each other or with each other.
That didn’t mean their paths didn’t nearly cross, however.
“I had heard his [Winn’s] name growing up a bit because he was with the national team and stuff, but he was two years younger than me so we never played, but were probably at the same place multiple times,” Hume said.
Winn had the chance to play for the U.S. U18 National Team and became the top recruit in the Texas region in the 2014 class, according to Top Drawer Soccer. Meanwhile, Hume made his way to Rollins College to begin his collegiate career. In two seasons at Rollins, Hume played in 31 games and scored 14 goals.
All of that led up to 2014 when Hume sought to transfer to North Carolina, and Winn chose to come to Chapel Hill after head coach Carlos Somoano persistently recruited him as a blue-chip prospect.
As two Texans making their way to North Carolina to pursue their soccer dreams, they immediately bonded among the newcomers to the program. After Winn’s freshman year/Hume’s redshirt year, they decided to find a house with some of their other teammates.
“That just goes from our friendship from the beginning,” Winn said. “As newcomers, you try to find your friend groups and obviously your whole team is your friend, but you have one or two guys, and luckily, we had five or six, so it was a good chemistry off the field and it translated on the field pretty well. We all bought into the culture of UNC, we bought into what the process was and what our culture was believing in.”
On the field, building chemistry did take some time, according to Somoano. However, once they found it, the pair flourished. In 2015, Hume led the team with 27 points and tied the team lead with five assists, earning him team MVP honors. Winn finished second on the team in points with 16 and earned second team All-ACC honors.
Somoano said that one of the biggest reasons the two bonded and succeeded like they did was their winning attitude.
“Very, very competitive,” Somoano said. “Not only in terms of the will to win but in terms of the will to contribute to a team. They’re both very much team guys. They just want to win, they just want to help the team win. I think that was probably one of the most binding attributes that brought them together.”
The Nashville Connection
Hume graduated from UNC in 2016 and signed with Ottawa Fury FC, picking up three goals in 23 games north of the border. Meanwhile, 845 miles to the south, Winn had a career year in his senior season with the Tar Heels, leading the team in goals with 11. His performance put him in the discussion for the Mac Hermann Trophy, given annually to the top men’s collegiate soccer player. He scored the game-winner against Fordham to send the Tar Heels to the NCAA Men’s College Cup.
Despite the distance, the pair kept in touch, especially as Winn prepared to jump to the professional ranks.
“When I left, I came back a couple of times and came back in the offseason, so we were seeing each other then,” Hume said. “And then just helping him through the whole process of picking an agent and how the combine/draft stuff works. As someone who already went through it, he was able to just pick my brain and stuff. That was helpful.”
In December 2017, Hume jumped on board with Nashville SC as one of the club’s first-ever player signings. About a month later, Winn was selected by the Colorado Rapids in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. It looked as if the two former roommates would continue their professional careers apart.
However, over the course of the next month, Winn was looking for other playing opportunities. And he turned to his old friend for advice.
“When he was at Colorado, he rang me up on the phone and was asking how is it there and stuff,” Hume said of Winn. “I told him it’s a good setup, good players, good team, and great city. I knew it would be a good spot for him and he’d enjoy it on and off the field.”
In early February, Winn signed with Nashville SC. Just about two years removed from their last game together for UNC, Winn and Hume were back together. A somewhat unrealistic dream between roommates suddenly became a reality.
And there was no question about where they’d live.
“When we were at college, we would be like ‘It would be fun if we were all on the same team someday,’” Hume said. “But, we never imagined that us two would be in Nashville together. I was here and things worked out to where he was able to come. When we got here, we had to live together.”
Hitting the Right Note
Expansion teams are often at a disadvantage because most of its players are adjusting to playing with completely new teammates in a completely new system. While many Nashville SC players were adjusting to their new teammates in Music City, Winn and Hume picked up right where they had left off two years ago.
“One thing that you can’t tell if you’re a fan sitting in the stands, or playing FIFA trying to put teams together, is that it’s not just how good players are, but the level of cohesion and chemistry you have to have,” Nashville SC technical director Mike Jacobs said. “With a young group or a new group, it takes time to develop that, and to have two guys that already have that existing relationship I think is really important.”
That chemistry was on display early on in the club’s opening preseason game when the pair combined to assist on the first goal in club history. In fact, it might not have even happened if Winn didn’t have a keen sense of what Hume would do with the ball in the air.
Their rapport has been invaluable to the first-ever Nashville SC squad.
“He knew when Tucker would get to it,” Jacobs said of Winn’s play to set up the first goal. “He knew Tucker was going to bump it on, and I just don’t know if any other player would have known to do that, either from playing together or just instinctively to understand where to go. That’s because those two played together for so long.”
Winn and Hume have brought a third roommate into the fold in Nashville: goalkeeper Micah Bledsoe – who they claim is the messiest roommate. Even with a local Lipscomb alum in the fold, the pair of Texans turned Tar Heels have quickly rediscovered the comforts of home that they had in Chapel Hill a few years ago.
“It just picks up,” Winn said. “You can take a couple of months off and not talk, and then you talk again and it’s like you never left. It was good that Tuck was on Nashville and good to pick his brain on what Nashville was all about, and I was very interested. Thankfully it worked out in the end.”