It’s sounding like we’re going to see newly-signed Brad Smith starting sooner than anyone really thought would happen. I was only able to see him a few times this week - and none was on a full field - so I can’t speak a ton to his long crossing and positioning in 11v11s. What I did see was a number of short sided drills, lots of keep away, and some integration with other players.
Scouting the player
First impressions: He seems happy to be here. He was smiling, joking with others, and fit in well. He was a ready participant in all drills, and looks to be already at full or near full fitness. He is fairly tall and has a sturdy build that should hold up to MLS physicality well. I also appreciated the old school white kicks.
Things I liked: He is fast. REALLY, really friggin’ fast. He’s a fast player who looks fast, as comparison to Nouhou and Francis who are both fast but don’t always look like it. I don’t know if Smith is faster than either of those guys or Jordan Morris, but he seems like he is based on a smooth gait and impressive acceleration that looks great on a soccer field. His speed allows him so much more time, lets him attack on defense and gain separation on offense. I thought he was severely one-footed after seeing him repeatedly use the outside of his left to pass, but then in a short sided game he one timed a right footed hit to the upper v; it was nice to see that, although he doesn't use it a ton, the right foot is there and useful on occasion. If he’s a fullback he’s clearly our most polished in the attack, showing quality left-footed service and a constant attacking mindset. He has great agility and hip flexibility, which leads to plenty of power on his left foot. Looks to be a big asset in the offense with his ability to charge forward and very quickly overload the left side, or be a release valve up the line.
Things I didn't like: He doesn't appear to be a lockdown defender. From a winger position this may be fine, but as a fullback that can be problematic in MLS. Smith’s defense is much more based on his speed than positioning, which led to a number of poor decisions or unnecessary stabs at the ball. His energy was low in some of the short-sided games, such as a keep-away session where he didn't move a lot and barely touched the ball while staying near the line instead of moving around the game area, in stark contrast to other teammates. He was very passive in these short-sided games, and whether that was due to unfamiliarity or fitness remains to be seen. He was very calm on the ball, showing a ton of confidence, but was almost too calm at times, losing the ball with some lax passes. May be a liability defensively when he is asked to do more than just be real fast.
Going forward: This guy looks to be a very direct, offensive outside player. He looks very comfortable driving forward and keeps width, which should open up central players for the Sounders. He definitely showed more of Joevin Jones’ desire to be involved in offense than Nouhou lock-down defensive ability on first glance. If he plays outside back I think its very likely that he is up the line early and often, with Marshall sliding over and Svensson shading back. I think its very likely that he plays very high on the left for a fullback, or offers a change of pace (literally) as a left winger. He gives the team a bit of the tactical flexibility I think they thought they were getting in Francis, with the ability to move Smith comfortably up and back the left side as tactics demand. I think Nouhou has been really good this year, but if the team doesn’t agree or just wants to play someone much more offensive-minded, this is a good option who really knows how to use his speed much better than the fast left-sided players we have.
Quick practice bites
- Smith was with Kim, Marshall, and Leerdam when training in multiple drills, and saw him getting some quality time with the starting back line.
- Speaking of Kim, he trained full all week, and showed no signs of injury from the Minnesota game.
- V-Rod is really close to being back; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the 18 this weekend.
- Practice was very light, positive, and upbeat. At one point they did piggyback rides, with McCrary jumping on Schmetzer’s back.
- Torres was a big part of the jovial attitude in practice, constantly leading competitive drills and ribbing teammates. His smile is infectious, and he looked really strong within drills as well.
- Raul Ruidiaz looked fantastic in the short sided with goals training, and his ability to put a ball in the goal on his first or second touch with laser precision from near anywhere is really exciting to watch. The highlight was a fully extended horizontal full volley goal in a 4v4 game! The only thing stopping it from being a full bicycle was the service, and it was incredible to see how cleanly he hit a shoulder height ball into the net.