Given that they were announced the day before the inaugural Nashville SC game, you’ll have to forgive me (and be a little understanding) that I haven’t yet broken down the three newest Nashville SC player signings. I am now here to right that wrong.
A keeper who spent the 2017 season with Louisville City (but did not see action), the 23-year old Bledsoe signed after a short stint as a trialist and practice player with the Boys in Gold. He’s also a local guy, having played collegiately at Lipscomb.
Let’s go back to those Lipscomb days, since they encompass the last game action for Bledsoe. The Bisons (because Lipscomb doesn’t know that the plural of “Bison is Bison.” Surely I’m not breaking new ground with that observation) went 10-6-2 during his senior season in Fall 2016, with Bledsoe playing in 13 of those 18 games. He had a 9-4 record, including five clean sheet victories. He faced 56 shots, saving 41 of them (.732).
Are goalkeeper highlights something you might be interested in? Good:
Bledsoe started every game – and played all but one minute of the season – for a 9-9-2 Bison team during his freshman year (.798 save percentage), earning All-A-Sun freshman team honors. His sophomore year was the team’s best with a 12-4-1 record, but he played in only four games. His Lipscomb bio doesn’t mention an injury, but given that the player who replaced him (Nate Davis) has worse save numbers, I would imagine there was one. Junior year, he was back in the starting lineup, with a career-low .674 save percentage (three shutouts) as the team slumped to 6-10-1.
With the addition of his senior stats (above the video), he’s a career leader in wins (26), save percentage (.735) and shutouts (15).
It’s clear that Lipscomb just isn’t particularly good as a soccer program overall – not terrible, but just fine – given the records of the squad, and Bledsoe’s save percentage rode with the overall quality of the team. The direction of the cause-and-effect relationship is probably a little more toward “worse teams made life tougher on him” than “bad years from Bledsoe led to bad years for the Bison
He has twin older sisters, Amber and Aubrey, who were both collegiate keepers, as well. They don’t match his 6-5 height (5-9 apiece), but Aubrey, who graduated from Wake Forest, is a fellow pro, plying her trade with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride 2015-17. Amber graduated from Boston University. The family hails from Cincinnati.
As a squad member with a veteran and another experienced guy ahead of him, it’s likely that he gets only sparing minutes in 2018, but he can build on that experience (and learn from both Matt Pickens and CJ Cochran) to hopefully carve out a professional career.
McGrath is another young guy, having just finished his college career at Evansville University in Indiana. He’s an offensively-minded midfielder who scored 12 goals as a senior (26 for his career, plus 11 assists). At 6-3, 180 – Evansville listed him with another inch and five pounds, for what it’s worth – he’s also a good-sized kid, and only 21.
Evansville was 11-8-2 his senior year, falling in penalty kicks in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals. McGrath was the straw the stirred the drink in a major way, earning all-region honors along the way. In addition to his 12 goals, he had six assists, making him responsible in one way or another for more than half of Evansville’s 34 goals scored on the year. He did it on a ton of shots (73, 37 of them on goal), and by completing three of five penalty kick attempts.
Here’s the video:
He’s the first player I’ve profiled who we’ve actually been able to see on the field for Nashville SC before writing the profile (by a margin of about one paragraph), though I didn’t have many takeaways from his 11 minutes Saturday. That means the video is what we have, and the first takeaway is that several of his goals were from distance (even extreme distance, with a half-field shot finding net). He can really crack it, and also has a couple cool finishes in close with both feet (he also whiffs one with his left and hits it again to finish with the right) and has a few headers. He has a creative flair for finishing – or at times attempting to finish – that is exciting, as well.
McGrath has a knack for finding space and a passing lane and finding the right guy, though he’s not flashy with the ball at his feet or in distributing it. He doesn’t have outstanding speed, but like I just mentioned, manages to find space a bit. He seems long-term like a defensively-oriented midfielder who can push forward and pack a bit of a scoring punch when needed (or on set pieces).
Winn is the most exciting signing of the new trio (as if his assist Saturday afternoon didn’t make that clear enough). He was a draft pick for the Colorado Rapids just this January, and after feeling like he didn’t have a good shot to get signed to the senior squad, looked at his other options and signed with NSC. That is a coup for an expansion USL side. The 21-year old Texan stands 5-11, 172 according to UNC (Nashvile SC shorts him 10 pounds on that).
He played college ball at North Carolina, and was a Mac Hermann semifinalist and a second-team All-America selection following a senior year in which he scored 11 goals and added two assists for a UNC team that fell to Indiana in the College Cup (final four) of the NCAA Tournament – and is obviously a perennial power.
He played in 77 total games during his four years in Chapel Hill, rising from six starts as a freshman to a full0time starter the following three years. His career totals include 23 goals and 14 assists from 143 shots (58 on goal). His senior year was by far his most efficient, with goals/shots rising to .262 from the mid-teens his first couple years and a slide to .082 as a junior.
Here’s the college reel:
Here’s some assist you might be familiar with:
He’s listed as a winger/striker but gives me the impression that he’s most comfortable playing out wide on the left, and either beating players 1v1 to finish or feed a teammate (or just giving a beautiful service on his first touch for his club team’s first-ever goal, either way).
This kid is going to be a pro, he’s obviously an MLS-caliber player (he featured in just one preseason friendly for Colorado before leaving for Nashville), given that he was the No. 25 overall pick in the SuperDraft this year. He doesn’t turn 22 until later this month – can NSC hold onto him for two years to have him be a part of the initial MLS roster? It might be an interesting situation to monitor, because he may try to make the jump next Summer, rather than waiting one more year.
He should play significantly, and make a pretty good impact for NSC this year, especially in formations that call for a true offensive winger – which, to be fair, is not what I expect out of the primary tactical setup. He can also play striker, but while he’s a good finisher, it’s not quite as natural for him.