Brad Smith’s first experience as a Seattle Sounder was a tad unconventional.
With most of the team off on Monday following a 2-1 win at Minnesota United last weekend, Víctor Rodríguez, who is recovering from a hamstring strain, picked Smith up and drove him to Starfire for individual workouts. Rodríguez was the first teammate Smith met.
“He doesn’t speak much English, but we managed to have a good conversation,” Smith said with a laugh about the Spanish midfielder. “Really nice guy.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Rodríguez was in Smith’s shoes, an August addition to a Sounders side pushing hard toward the playoffs. Seattle acquired the 24-year-old Australian international fullback Smith on loan from English Premier League side AFC Bournemouth and is expecting him to contribute up and down the left side of the pitch. The club is still working on his paperwork and his eligibility is questionable for Sunday’s home match against FC Dallas (7 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).
“[Smith] comes with good experience, both national team and Premier League,” said Sounders VP of Soccer & Sporting Director 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. I’d characterize him as an attacking fullback. He plays with joy, he plays with effort, he’s a player who fans will like.”
Smith was born in Australia to British parents and moved to England when he was 14. He originally joined Liverpool’s academy as a striker before moving to left wing and ultimately left fullback, a move catalyzed by the evolution of the position into a more attacking role. He joined Bournemouth in 2016, but after the Cherries recently brought in a player at his position, Smith and manager Eddie Howe agreed to send Smith on loan so he could log minutes.
Smith at his first full training session | Jane Gershovich
Sounders FC 2 Head Coach and fellow Australian John Hutchinson played a major role in facilitating the move. First Team High Performance Director Damian Roden, who had previously worked for England’s Stoke City, also knew of Smith from his days at Liverpool and Bournemouth and provided first-hand insight.
“The more information we can get from within our staff, it really helps make these types of decisions,” said Henderson.
Smith had several offers in England to go on loan — he had previously gone on loan to EFL League Two side Swindon Town while under contract with Liverpool — but the combination of a new challenge and a good conversation with Head Coach Brian Schmetzer helped swing his interest into coming to Seattle.
“I knew about the fan base, it was top three in the league.,” said Smith. “That’s why I’m here. The manager gave me a call and it was a nice conversation…Once I heard the interest and spoke to the manager, it was a no-brainer.”
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Schmetzer was impressed with his new option as well. Despite already having left fullbacks Nouhou and Waylon Francis on the roster, the addition of an attacking wingback in the mold of former Sounder Joevin Jones is a boost for competition at training as well as more potential for on-field production.
“I told him that the Sounders are a great club, that we’ve had a lot of success, that Seattle is beautiful in the summer time,” Schmetzer said of his initial phone conversation with Smith.
“[Smith is] pacey, he’s got a good left foot, he’s technically clean,” Schmetzer added. “But players have to come in and earn their spots. Nothing is a given. He’ll have to come in and compete.”