Homecoming: Defender Brad Smith returns to ‘special place’ in Seattle eager to pick up where he left off with Sounders

Welcome back, Brad Smith.

The Australian international left back signed a permanent deal with the Sounders on Thursday after a year-and-a-half loan stint in Seattle from August 2018 – December 2019. Smith, 26, made 35 appearances in all competitions, including starting each of the club’s four postseason matches en route to winning 2019 MLS Cup.

After returning to parent club AFC Bournemouth at the beginning of 2020, he went on loan again to Championship side Cardiff City before his contract with Bournemouth expired at the end of July. While back in the UK, Smith missed Seattle and was pleased to get a deal done that has him signed through the end of the 2022 MLS season.

“This place has a special place in my heart ever since I arrived here,” said Smith, who also added that Seattle felt like home. “Going away from it was quite upsetting. Being back [in England], it was difficult. I always knew that I wanted to come back [to Seattle].”

During his nine months away from the club, Smith kept in touch with Sounders Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer, as well as close friends Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Stefan Frei. He kept tabs on how the team was doing and would watch highlights of matches.

Smith had multiple offers from other clubs, but his rapport with his Sounders teammates and the added ease of already knowing his surroundings weighed heavily on his desire to return to the Emerald City.

“He’s buddies with our guys,” said General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “You can’t wish that kind of chemistry. It was very clearly a reason why Brad wanted to come back.”

Smith and his wife also welcomed their second child. And while the logistics of moving to another continent during a pandemic were challenging, it was ultimately an easy decision.

“For us to move, [my wife and I] had to have a pretty big conversation,” Smith said, “but I was very happy here and my wife was happy here, and we feel like it would be a great place for our kids to grow up for the next few years.

“Seattle is special to me,” he continued. “The people here were so great to me. The fans were amazing. The fans never stopped messaging me the whole year I was gone on Instagram, Twitter. They played a huge part in me coming back as well.”

The Sounders now have three viable options at left back, but Smith’s signing offers far more than just that for Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. It allows Joevin Jones the ability to play on the right wing, where he’s shown he’s more than capable of producing, while allowing Roldan to play in his more natural central midfield position. Especially in a condensed schedule, having depth in the center of the park with João Paulo and Gustav Svensson will be massive.

Smith also brings a ton of offensive help, as demonstrated by his eight assists he had during his first spell in Seattle, and he gives Schmetzer choices of what style of play is best suited for each match.

“It gives us competition in the squad and it gives us optionality,” said Lagerwey. “It makes us better in four or five different ways. It adds an explosive player to our team.”

Added Smith: “I feel like I can add what I brought last time and hopefully push for back-to-back MLS Cups.”