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Brad Smith praises fans, even turf, following Sounders debut

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The fullback showcased some quality speed and passing.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — As debuts go, Brad Smith’s went about as well as it could, at least until the very end. The Australia international started and played 73 minutes before leaving with groin tightness — apparently more of a precaution — and generally showcased some impressive speed and quality passing in the Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 win over Western Conference-leading FC Dallas on Sunday.

Smith, who joined on loan from the English Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth Aug. 9, is accustomed to matches at Dean Court, Bournemouth’s home with a capacity of 11,360, the smallest in the Premiership. Sunday’s turnout of 39,522 eclipsed all but the EPL’s biggest stadium capacities.

“I didn’t expect it to be honest,” Smith said after the match. “Very good fans. I’ll tweet about it later as well. I was happy to play in front of them and they gave me a great reception when I came off. I’m looking forward to the next game now and I’m happy to get a win.”

The Clink’s one bit of soccer weirdness, artificial turf, didn’t phase the loan signing as much as he’d anticipated, either.

“I’ve never played on Astroturf before,” Smith said. “I thought it was quite good. I thought it would be a lot worse, to be honest. When I walked out I thought it looked different to the eye and then Djimi (Traore) worked with me on the bounce and stuff. The bounce is different, but passing and running is fine. I reckon you can probably run faster on that than grass because you can (keep your feet planted). I imagine it’ll be different on a hot day, but tonight was alright.”

Smith completed 30 of his 34 passes on the night and took 54 touches, drawing a foul while conceding two.

A passing map showing the successful (green) and unsuccessful (red) passes and crosses from Brad Smith against FC Dallas. / mlssoccer.com

“He was pretty good,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of Smith’s debut. “You guys saw what Garth (Lagerwey) and Chris (Henderson) saw in him. He’s got good speed and crossing ability. He’s an attack-minded player. I thought, overall, he was enthusiastic to play. He hadn’t played a lot of games in the last couple years and you could tell he was happy to be on the pitch. We were overall very pleased. We’ll watch the film and try to get him acclimated a little bit more with the players he’s playing with. We’ll get him up to speed, he was very good.”

Center back Chad Marshall echoed Schmetzer’s sentiments on the newcomer.

“He was good up and down the left,” Marshall said. “You can see his quality. We’re happy to have him. He speaks English, so that’s nice too. He’s a good player. He’ll grow into our offense more and more.”

The other surprise left back news of the evening involved the exclusion of Nouhou from the 18-man roster. The Cameroonian was on the field pregame, hitting balls to Handwalla Bwana. Schmetzer denied that Nouhou being left off the team sheet was anything other than a coach’s decision and that he felt Nouhou remained a player with a bright future that the club had no intention of selling. A report in the Seattle Times suggested the situation was at least a bit less cut and dry, though.

Smith wound up leaving the match midway through the second half, citing groin tightness, but said that he should be ready to go by the time Seattle faces the LA Galaxy for the first time in 2018 Aug. 18.

“I feel good,” Smith said. “At the end I done a cross and I felt a little pinch, so I sat down, but I’ll be fine by next game.”