Seattle Sounders left back Brad Smith came off the practice pitch after training Wednesday with a broad smile on his face. Whether that was elation or simply relief was open to interpretation. Either way, it was clear that he — and the Sounders — were happy he’ll be sticking around until the season ends.
The Sounders announced — finally — that Smith would be extending his stay with the team through the 2019 season. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, though Chris Henderson said that the previous arrangement would continue through the end of the year.
“I’m glad its finally happened, it’s what we all wanted,” Smith said. “Just glad to be here for the rest of the season and I think we can do some special things.”
Smith joined the Sounders on loan from A.F.C. Bournemouth in July 2018, and once he got through some some injury issues he was a revelation in attack, using his pace and combining with Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz to form a lethal attacking trio, especially in the first half of the season. His performances (five assists) earned him a call-up to the Australian national team for the first time in several years.
“It was nice to come out here and get game time at a big club out here,” Smith said. “I think the more I play, the more I can improve and work on my game. I just want to keep it going and stay healthy and fit.”
Sporting Director Chris Henderson worked closely with General Manager and President Garth Lagerwey to get the extension over the line, and credited Smith’s parent team with working with the Sounders to keep him in Seattle. “He’s done well here, so the owning club says ‘let’s see what’s out there,’” Henderson said.
“I think they’re happy with the development he’s had here, and the success he’s had with us. Brad puts teams under pressure. His speed, his ability to time his runs, his crossing and setting players up has really helped us produce some goals and scoring chances.”
There was apparently legitimate interest in Smith from other teams and leagues, and Smith didn’t find out about his status until the last two or three days and had gone so far as to pack his belongings. His absence from practice on Tuesday only fueled speculation that his time with the Sounders was at an end.
“It was very last minute, I only found out a couple of days ago,” Smith said. “Having to get ready with the family to potentially move home was difficult. We had to prepare as if we were going home.”
Confirmation of Smith’s extended stay means that the Sounders have significant depth on the left side of the field now, with Victor Rodriguez nearing a return and Joevin Jones and Harry Shipp fully fit. Additionally, Nouhou is coming off arguably his best performance of the season which earned him a MLS “Team of the Week” honors. That presents a dilemma for Coach Brian Schmetzer in finding time for all of the players.
“Getting them minutes will be the challenge,” Schmetzer said, noting it’s possible players will move to different positions on the field. “I played him (Smith) up a line before he got injured, Nouhou and Joevin in 2016/2017 had that same relationship; Nouhou coming in as a sub to lock down games. There’s plenty of options there.”
While Smith had to leave the game versus Houston with a groin issue, he was able to practice Wednesday with no apparent setbacks, and the decision to sub him out of the game was more precautionary. “I felt something in the game, and we decided [to sub] because we’ve got a big second half of the season and we don’t want to make little things become big things,” Smith said. “I felt alright today and we’ll see how I go over the next few days but I should be alright for the weekend.”