The older we get, the faster time passes. How the hell is March already only a few weeks away? It feels like just a moment ago we were discussing Nashville SC’s lackluster finish to the 2023 season.
A scorching hot midseason push fell to pieces after a magical run into the Leagues Cup Final against Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami FC. That’s what happens when you can only compete on one side of the ball. Defense led the charge to last year's postseason berth, but an inability to become multidimensional on the offensive half ensured NSC would never be a threat in the MLS Tournament.
Manager Gary Smith knew that had to change this offseason… and fast.
Enter Tyler Boyd. A well-seasoned veteran from the LA Galaxy brings a mix of MLS and international experience that is much needed for the Nashville SC offense. In this day and age, a 29-year-old winger will be considered one of the old guys in the locker room. Boyd’s contract will run through 2026 with a team option for 2027. In 28 starts last season for the Galaxy, he netted a team high 7 goals and tacked on 4 assists. NSC will need double-digit goal scoring production from Boyd in 2024 if they wish to make a deeper run.
At Striker, Sam Surridge was a desperately needed addition last July, but did not have much time to get his gold cleats underneath him. In just eight appearances, he scored only twice. Nashville will lean heavily on Surridge to have a breakout campaign to provide relief to former MLS MVP, Hany Mukhtar.
Despite 15 goals and 9 assists a year ago, Mukhtar contributions never seemed like enough. A stingy defense was complemented by an impotent, one-man show offense—a recipe for disaster in an 11-man sport.
More of Jacob Shaffleburg will also be needed this season as Smith may shuck off some of the Striker responsibilities to the young Canadian. Shaffleburg gained national attention last summer when he scored a mesmerizing tying goal against the USA in the 2023 Gold Cup for Canada.
A combination of Boyd, Surridge, Shaffleburg, and, of course, Mukhtar should give life to a new found optimism for Nashville SC fans. While scoring at will this season may not be a foregone reality, the opportunity finally appears plausible. In the end, Gary Smith’s technical decisions and rotation will not only decide a possible return to the MLS playoffs for the 5th time in 5 seasons, but also how deep this squad journeys.
NSC continues preseason play this Wednesday versus USL’s Birmingham Legion FC. CONCACAF Champions League play commences on February 22nd against Moca with MLS competition starting at Geodis Park on February 25th as the New York Red Bulls come to town.