Jarrod Smith has been waiting patiently for months, chomping at the bit for his opportunity to prove himself in a Sounders FC kit. He arrived in Seattle in January while recovering from a hip injury and spent most of the early training sessions doing rehab work on the sidelines. When the team went to California and Argentina, he stayed behind, grinding away in training sessions away from the teammates he wanted to be playing with. When the season started and the entire city was embracing his teammates, he had to watch from the sideline, again awaiting his chance.
Then, just when he was about to be healthy, he had a setback while training with the New Zealand national team in preparation for a friendly in Bangkok against Thailand.
“I got myself fixed up with my hip after a long rehabbing process during the preseason, I got myself back into training and then went off to Thailand and after the flight my legs couldn’t quite handle it,” Smith said after scoring two goals in a reserve game against Seattle University. “On the first day of training I twinged my quad on the other side.”
He very easily could have sulked about the injury and separated himself from his teammates, who were off to a 3-0 start upon his return. Instead, he has continued his rehab and is almost ready for first team action.
“That’s football. All players have to work through these things,” Smith said. “After a three or four week period I’ve got myself back strong and it’s paying off and I’m getting back on the pitch for more and more minutes every week.”
Taken from Toronto FC in the expansion draft, Smith had one goal in 20 MLS games last season and has 13 caps for New Zealand to his credit. One thing that has helped his recovery is that he is spending time around his teammates and has felt a part of the team since Day One.
“I had been around the guys for a long time now, even though it hasn’t so much been on the pitch. But the off the field relationships have help me to come in nicely,” said Smith, 24. “Now getting more and more minutes every week builds confidence. I’m putting these injuries behind me and focus on the No. 1 thing which is football.”
After coming off the bench in the second half of a reserve game against UW and the US Open Cup play-in game against Real Salt Lake, Smith started and played 60 minutes against Seattle University in a reserve game Tuesday. He showed his improving fitness by scoring two second-half goals in that game and is rapidly climbing onto the depth chart after spending the first two months of the season on injured reserve.
“He’s getting better and sharper. And he ended up scoring two goals in his last 10-15 minutes of the game when he was probably most fatigued. So I think he's getting sharper and stronger all the time,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
With forward Fredy Montero facing a red-card suspension for Seattle’s upcoming game against the LA Galaxy this Sunday, Smith has even been mentioned by Schmid as a possibility for some playing time this weekend.
“It’s safe to say that it’s the best I’ve felt in four months,” Smith said. “It’s been a long journey back. It’s been frustrating at times, but now is one of the most exciting times for me as a player. After having all that time off, to get back in the matches is an exciting time.”
Kickoff for the Mother’s Day match against the Galaxy is noon at Qwest Field. The game is sold out, but can be seen on KONG 6/16 and Telefutura.