MLS

Defender Down Under: Australian international and former Liverpool left back Brad Smith has found a new home in Seattle

Brad Smith dribbling 2018-10-05

This is a feature in Issue 17 of Sounders Monthly. Copies are available for free at The NINETY, GuestLink Services locations, Soccer Celebration and Membership Central. You can also access it on the Sounders Mobile App.




Brad Smith called the first day of school in Liverpool, England, the hardest day of his life. Going to a new country with a new culture at such a prime developmental age was as daunting as it was difficult. He knew no one. His first training with Liverpool FC was much of the same for someone who describes himself as a relatively shy person.


“There were a lot of local lads there,” Smith said. “It was a challenge and something I had to step up to, and I think it’s helped me become who I am today.”


A little more than a decade ago, 13-year-old Smith was at a soccer showcase in England. The Australia native was playing up several age groups on an elite team on tour in the UK, Sweden and Denmark with several European scouts in attendance, many of whom were interested in the pacey left-footed teenager. Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers invited Smith to join their respective academies, but one club in particular stood out.


“[My family and I] went to all of them and had a look, and we liked Liverpool in the end,” said Smith. “It’s an amazing club.”

Defender Down Under: Australian international and former Liverpool left back Brad Smith has found a new home in Seattle -



Smith with Liverpool in 2016 | Reuters

Smith’s parents are English and each moved to Australia when they were very young. They had grown up there, then built a life together. Smith grew up in Byron Bay in New South Wales, roughly two hours south of Brisbane. Moving back to England to support Brad’s dream would mean sacrificing everything. They would have to sell their house, their business. Nothing was guaranteed, either. Smith would get world-class training at one of the most recognizable soccer clubs in the world, but the number of players from the academy who eventually earn professional contracts is small, and those who matriculate to Liverpool’s First Team is even smaller.


“My whole family came over,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have come over without them. They put everything into me. I’m glad it all worked out.”


“Brad is a guy who can get up and down the line all day long.” — Sounders GM & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey


Smith’s First Team debut in 2013 was baptism by fire. He was 19 and checked in on the road at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea with Liverpool down 2-1. He came on as a left winger, playing opposite Eden Hazard in midfield. Wearing the Liverpool jersey was something he had imagined for the previous five years, and to have it come to fruition was a moment Smith still carries with him.


Smith spent the following season on loan with League One’s Swindon Town before featuring again for Liverpool in the 2015-16 campaign. He made four appearances in the Premier League, four in the FA Cup, one in the English League Cup and one in UEFA Europa League. He scored his first goal for the Reds in a 2-2 draw with Exeter City in FA Cup action.

Defender Down Under: Australian international and former Liverpool left back Brad Smith has found a new home in Seattle -



Smith with Bournemouth in 2017 | Reuters

Still a promising young left back, fellow EPL side AFC Bournemouth bought him in summer 2016. He made eight appearances across all competitions for the Cherries that season, but after only making three appearances last year, Bournemouth wanted to send Smith on loan to get him more minutes. One of several teams interested: the Seattle Sounders.


“We think [Smith] played well for Bournemouth when he got a chance,” said Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “He’s a player we feel like we got a lot of information on and we felt very comfortable with.


“We really wanted to add some speed and power to our team, and Brad is a guy who can get up and down the line all day long…It’s something we didn’t have, and that was important to add in [the summer transfer] window.”


“It is difficult, but I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been really good so far.” — Brad Smith on his transition to the Sounders and United States

Defender Down Under: Australian international and former Liverpool left back Brad Smith has found a new home in Seattle -

Added Sporting Director & VP of Soccer Chris Henderson: “He’s a player who’s excited to be here. He’s got a great engine, will get up and down [the field], take players on…He plays with joy, he plays with effort, he’s a player who fans will like.”


It’s still early in Smith’s Seattle tenure, but his impact has been swift and noticeable. Despite suffering a hamstring strain on Sept. 23 at the LA Galaxy, Smith has made six appearances and helped stretch opposing defenses with devastating overlapping runs and precise crosses into dangerous areas.


“He’s able to run up and down the line for the whole 90 minutes,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said of Smith. “[He brings] a bit of composure. He’s able to take a deep breath and cross the ball really well.”


The transition to the United States from England was another massive culture shock for Smith, but his experience uprooting as a teenager has gone a long way in easing the transition and alleviating any sort of growing pains that he perhaps might have experienced otherwise. The staff has done a lot to help, too. Like any new signing, especially foreign, the Sounders helped Smith find housing, set up a banking account, get an American phone. It allowed him to knuckle down and focus solely on soccer, all the more important given he only had a few days between his arrival on Aug. 8 and his first club appearance four days later against FC Dallas.


Roldan and brother Alex have also been incredibly valuable. They bonded almost instantly and have helped ground Smith in his new home.

Defender Down Under: Australian international and former Liverpool left back Brad Smith has found a new home in Seattle -



Smith with Cristian and Alex Roldan after a win in Portland in August | Jane Gershovich

“They just made me feel very welcomed when I first came in,” said Smith. “We’re similar age. We play Xbox together, we play [the video game] ‘Fortnite.’ It’s an easy way for us to bond.”


Added Cristian: “Brad’s a goofball. He likes to joke around and have a good time. He’s always smiling. I’ve never seen him having a bad day…He’s a fantastic guy in the locker room.”


Smith’s fiancé and newborn baby have joined him in Seattle, too, and they finally feel settled. It was the second time his family has moved with him — his own, this time — and he credits their support for how well he’s been able to adjust.


“You don’t really know what to expect going to a different country and not knowing people,” Smith said. “But you have to do these things. It is difficult, but I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been really good so far.”

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