What does Nashville SC need from their next head coach?

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It’s been eighteen days since Nashville SC fired Gary Smith. With four games under interim head coach Rumba Munthali (one win, two draws and one loss), the club will enter a two-week international break before resuming matches on June 15.

As general manager Mike Jacobs searches for a permanent manager, we look at the qualities the next head coach will need to take the club into what Jacobs called “Nashville 2.0.”

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1. Coordination with the front office

This is the big one and the obvious one. Whoever lands Nashville will need to be aligned with Jacobs and his staff, both in terms of transfers and overall tactical approach.

Jacobs and his staff have developed a clear framework and plan of action for identifying and acquiring talent, and while they are not afraid to spend money, their time in MLS has been largely characterized by domestic and under-the-radar signings , where they gamble on their skills. to make the sum greater than the parts. While there is reason to believe this approach will expand and evolve, Nashville’s next manager must be able to operate successfully within that framework.

Unfortunately for Smith, several high-profile signings by the coaching staff didn’t work out. Jhonder Cádiz was moderately successful before his production faded and never recovered. Aké Loba and Rodrigo Piñeiro were complete disasters that indicated a rift between the scouting and coaching staff. Nashville needs to remove that connection with this appointment.

2. A versatile attack approach

This was Gary Smith’s biggest flaw. During his tenure, Nashville was generally one-dimensional in its offense. While effective in transition, they were predictable during build-up. Nashville struggled to create dangerous moments from Zone 14, the central part of the pitch just outside the penalty area, and instead resorted to crossing as their main means of creating chances.

Overall, their rotations were stale and they struggled to maintain consistent play patterns. Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge occupied the same positions too often, and instead of pulling defenders away from each other into open space, their desperation for touches drew the defense towards them both.

Whoever Nashville hires should have a track record of creating and maintaining a diverse offensive approach. The Coyotes are too predictable going forward and need a more modern approach.

3. A history of developing young players

This one is easy. Gary Smith did not give minutes to young players. Nashville needs and wants to develop young players. Their academy is beginning to churn out professional talent to be developed to the MLS level.

Nashville also needs to expand its transfer pool. Under Smith, they were limited to signing mostly veteran or in-prime players who had already been developed. The majority of signings (with a few notable exceptions) did not take significant steps forward after arriving in Nashville, and the coaching staff stayed away from signing young forwards because they simply did not want to play. The next manager must have a history of playing and developing young talent.

4. Tactical flexibility

This was a sometimes underrated quality of Smith that needs to be expanded upon. Smith was able to switch formations, although he tended to be more reactive in his changes and stick to a system until it stopped working.

Nashville’s next manager must be able to make personnel and formation adjustments within his overall philosophy and develop a game model that is flexible enough to handle multiple types of opponents.

5. Defensive stability

This is not something that should be changed, but rather maintained. Gary Smith’s teams have been truly elite defensively, and with the top defenders already on the roster, it is paramount that they remain difficult to beat. It shouldn’t come at the expense of improved offensive play, but it should be a minimum expectation to remain among the best defensive sides in MLS.

6. Multicultural appeal

This goes hand-in-hand with aligning the front office and developing young players, but Nashville’s next manager must understand and appeal to players from around the world. Too often, Nashville’s recruiting pool was limited to mostly English-speaking players. Jacobs hinted at this after Smith was fired.

“We have to take advantage of what our league offers us,” he said. “Whether it is deploying players in the U22 Initiative, whether it is identifying players from parts of the country and parts of the world who will generate high resale value, we must ensure that we ourselves are malleable and to be flexible. .”

Other than Aníbal Godoy and Randall Leal, Nashville has been unable to successfully sign and utilize players from South and Central America. They tried and failed several times, and several of the players I mentioned had success after leaving Nashville. This should be a priority with their new manager. While the rest of MLS continues to develop and improve their scouting and transfer networks in nearby countries, Nashville cannot afford to be left behind.


What do you want to see from Nashville SC’s next manager? Let us know in the comments.

Author: Ben Wrightis director of soccer content and senior MLS contributor for Broadway Sports for Nashville SC and the U.S. National Team. Previously, Ben was the editor and founder of Speedway Soccer, where he covered Nashville SC and their time at USL before moving to Major League Soccer since 2018. KY Ben grew up playing in Louisville before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he’s not talking about football, he’s probably producing music, drinking coffee, or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon