Seattle Sounders defender Brad Smith impresses, proves offensive weapon in first preseason start

TUCSON, Ariz. — After a promising first six matches with the Seattle Sounders, defender Brad Smith missed the final five regular-season matches and two postseason games last season with a hamstring injury.  Smith returned to the starting lineup on Saturday in the Sounders’ first preseason match in Tucson against the Houston Dynamo and put in a brilliant 60-minute shift, staking Seattle to a 2-0 lead before the starters exited.

“I thought the team performed well and we got to work on our patterns,” said Smith. “It’s good to get a feel and get the legs back going and get a good 60 minutes under our belt.

“Players like me and Jordan [Morris, who returns after recovering from an ACL injury], we need to get the sprints in, so it was good to get the high speed distance in as well.”

Smith, 24, joined Seattle last summer on loan from English Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. On Saturday, his play on the left flank generated myriad offensive chances, and his combination play with left midfielder Víctor Rodríguez set up the Sounders’ second goal.

“I played with Harry [Shipp] and Víctor last year, they’re two different types of players and I like playing with them both,” said Smith. “It was really good the other night, Nico [Lodeiro] coming over as well. Those two together are really good, and for me to be among those guys and playing good passes, it’s a really good feeling.”

The Sounders have two more friendlies in Tucson, starting with a Cascadia clash against the rival Portland Timbers on Wednesday (6 p.m. PT; SoundersFC.com). Each subsequent match provides another opportunity to get better and get closer to 100 percent ahead of the MLS season-opener on March 2 against FC Cincinnati (7 p.m. PT; FS1 | TICKETS).

“[We’re focused on getting] more fitness and more touches on the ball and preparing for the season and making sure we’re all ready,” said Smith. “We’re getting everything fine-tuned for the game on [March 2], and we can’t wait for it.”

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