For the first time in over five years, and just the second time in his professional career, Seattle Sounders defender Brad Smith found his name on the score sheet. In the 54th minute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at LAFC, Smith cleaned up a save by goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega by heading the rebound into the net to secure a well-earned road point.
“It’s been a while,” Smith quipped. “From the position where I used to play as a left back, I’m generally trying to find the strikers on crosses. This position gives me more freedom to go forward, and Nouhou is my security guard at the back, so I have the freedom to get myself forward and put myself in positions that I wasn’t able to do as a left back. Hopefully I can add many more to that.”
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer changed to a 3-5-2 formation this year from his usual 4-2-3-1, resulting in the need for wingbacks. A nominal left back, Smith has shifted wider and higher up the pitch through the first two matches of the season, and his positioning and willingness to attack bore fruit on Saturday.
“We had a lot of good attacks coming from the righthand side, and Brad obviously scored from the lefthand side,” said Schmetzer. “That is what we want our wingbacks to do: Alex [Roldan], Kelyn [Rowe], Brad, [Jimmy] Medranda, whoever is playing wingback, they’re supposed to get into the penalty box when the cross comes from the opposite side. So that’s by design. Our wing play can be strong because we have three center backs to cover plus usually one midfielder. We encourage [our wingbacks] to get involved in the attacking movements and even get on the end of crosses.”
The Sounders needed Smith’s contribution even more because they were without captain and attacking weapon Nicolás Lodeiro, who missed his second straight match with a left quad strain. LAFC also had some firepower missing with Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi unavailable due to injury as well.
“Coming into the game knowing that their superstars were questionable, it seems frustrating now looking back,” said Cristian Roldan, “but given the circumstances going down 1-0 [in the second minute] on a good goal by Atuesta and having the chances that we had, it feels like gained a point rather than losing two.”
The Sounders head back to Seattle ready to face another familiar foe in the LA Galaxy next Sunday at Lumen Field (6 p.m. PT; FS1). Four points through two matches to start the new campaign while employing a new system is nothing to scoff at, and the Sounders expect themselves to continue to get better.
“The key takeaway for us is that we are improving, we are going to continue to improve,” said Roldan. “It was a difficult game. We’re still playing with this new formation and we’re adapting to it.”