To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s first preseason match of the season, we spoke with For Club and Country’s Tim Sullivan to get his take on the excitement in one of the South’s newest soccer cities, if he minds spending some time in the USL before making the leap to MLS, and what players we should look out for on Saturday. Check out their website for all your Nashville SC news.
DSS: What’s the feeling around Nashville SC? Is the city embracing the club in its early history?
FCAC: There are really positive feelings, though at this point it’s probably a little more limited to the existing soccer fanatics than they realize. The ownership group did a good job in taking over and incorporating an existing NPSL (and last year PDL) team to keep the fans of that engaged. I don’t know that the market as a whole will be nearly as excited until MLS play begins in a couple years - the average man on the street might not even know about a pro soccer team in town until the MLS era arrives. Still, those who are already engaged are very engaged, so hopefully that will translate to a great atmosphere - it’s not 40k per game, but over 6,000 season tickets sold for an expansion USL side is pretty impressive.
DSS: Reports are that Nashville will begin MLS play in 2020, keeping them in the USL for two seasons. Are you a fan of building the team for a couple of seasons before moving up or would you have preferred an immediate start in MLS?
FCAC: There really wasn’t the infrastructure in place for the team to make an immediate leap to MLS, so there was going to be a big gap between an announcement and the first game in that league either way. Having a USL team for a couple years will help build a bit of excitement around the franchise, give a professional soccer team to cheer for, etc., in the interim, so I guess it’s a positive (rather than an announcement in December 2017 and not seeing the field until February 2020). The longer run-up also means less time spent in a temporary stadium - the AAA Nashville Sounds baseball stadium for now, probably the Tennessee Titans’ stadium in the inaugural MLS year - before a soccer-specific facility is ready.
DSS: Who are the players to look out for in Nashville’s inaugural season?
FCAC: There are several players with MLS experience to keep an eye on, though for the most part they’re either at the end of their careers (keeper Matt Pickens and defender Kosuke Kimura played for coach Gary Smith’s 2010 Colorado Rapids MLS championship team along with your own Jeff Larentowicz), guys who were cut from a bad expansion team (defender Justin Davis played for Minnesota United last year), or those trying to stay in MLS for the long-run with a stop in the USL (defender London Woodberry has four years of MLS experience but is only 26). Then, there are also guys who were productive for USL runners-up Swope Park Rangers (midfielder Lebo Moloto) and a really bad Harrisburg City Islanders team (striker Ropapa Mensah) who should get some pretty good statistical output this year in a well-rounded squad. Finally, a guy who isn’t going to get a ton of time this year, but will make the fans go absolutely nuts when he’s subbed on, is midfielder Martim Galvão, who was the star of the U-23 team last summer.