Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs is not one to shy away from wheeling and dealing during the MLS SuperDraft to get his man.
He did it last year when he traded up in the second round to select left back Tom Judge, and he did it again this year when he traded $125,000 in general allocation money to the Colorado Rapids to move up from 26th to 10th overall to take center back Ahmed Longmire from UCLA.
Colorado will also receive $50,000 in GAM if Longmire meets certain performance-based criteria.
“I went to bed last night thinking about what do we have to do to move up to get the guy that we identified as our top choice, which was Longmire,” Jacobs said. “When you look at the other players that we identified, our feeling was the guys we wanted — and specifically our top choice — would not be around at 26.
“… We got to a point, we got to [pick] 10, we just didn’t think he would be around that much longer. Then you start looking at the potential return and how much are you willing to spend to get your guy? … We just thought we weren’t going to get the player we wanted at our spot. So for us, the opportunity to go to 10, we jumped at it.”
Longmire was considered one of the top three defenders in the SuperDraft along with Kipp Keller, who was taken No. 5 overall by Austin FC, and Matthew Nocita, who was taken No. 7 overall by the New York Red Bulls.
After spending his first two seasons at Utah Valley University, Longmire transferred to UCLA in 2020, where he earned an All-Pac-12 second team honor as a junior and All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a senior.
In 20 appearances with the Bruins, Longmire played 1,728 minutes and was a part of a UCLA defense that recorded eight shutouts in his two seasons. He was one of just four players to start every game as a junior and he played a team-high 1,121 minutes.
“Someone like Longmire, for us, we had a chance to watch him extensively … we kind of felt like for us [he was] the best center back on the board,” Jacobs continued. “For us, whether we played with three center backs or two center backs, knowing in a World Cup year that Walker [Zimmerman] would be away quite a bit, for us to be able to strengthen our depth with not only the person who was the best player on the board we thought fit our group the best. That was really important.
“The combination of tools that he has, his athletic ability, his ability to close players down, his ability in the air, speed in the turn — he fits in really well with the guys we have.”
Although NSC traded Alistair Johnston a few weeks ago, the club is still flush with depth on the back line that includes two-time reigning MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, Daniel Lovitz, 2020 No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick Jack Maher, Robert Castellano, re-entry pick Josh Bauer and Eric Miller.
The comparisons between Longmire and Zimmerman’s game are quite apparent, but Jacobs stated he believes his new center back plays a more similar style to a different NSC defender.
“Ahmed is probably most comparable athletically to Romney from the standpoint of his pace in the turn,” Jacobs said. “I think our thought of who we would kind of put together, we kind of thought having another guy with the pace he had and his ability to win balls in the air would be a good fit with that group. I think he’s a good player passing it, and he could certainly improve on breaking lines and connecting passes.”
Nashville SC also drafted University of Akron goalkeeper Will Meyer in the second round, 38th overall. After spending three years at the University of Louisville, Meyer transferred to Akron, where he had 27 appearances in two seasons. The 23-year-old keeper logged 17 clean sheets during his college career — nine with Louisville and eight with Akron.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_