Brad Smith is back. The Seattle Sounders announced the return of the Australian on Thursday, reuniting them with their MLS Cup-winning left back.
“We are very excited to bring in Brad, a proven winner who adds even more speed and athleticism to our squad,” Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a team release. “With Brad being out of contract, this was a uniquely good deal for us, allowing the club to add a high impact player during this unorthodox season.”
When Smith’s loan with the Sounders ran out at the end of last year — and even as recently as August — a reunion did not seem particularly likely. In addition to have another six months remaining on his contract that paid him more than $1 million a year, it seemed a reasonable bet that he’d find interested longterm buyers in England who could more easily offer that kind of money.
A variety of circumstances led to that never coming to fruition. First, his loan to Championship-side Cardiff City yielded little playing time. Part of the loan was interrupted by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which also threw the transfer market into disarray. By the time Smith’s contract with Bournemouth ran out, he was in limbo.
Meanwhile, the Sounders apparently remained interested as long as they could make it work financially. The Sounders were able to add Smith on a free transfer and apparently without needing to use Targeted Allocation Money to buy down his contract. Under the previous loan deal, the Sounders were still on the hook for about $500,000 a year.
“He is a good guy to have in the locker room and already has established relationships with players on our team,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said in the release. “I’m looking forward to bringing him back into the squad.”
While clearly a talented and productive player — he had seven assists in about 2,300 MLS minutes last season — Smith’s addition does seem to bring back a logjam at a position that seemed to be in good hands already with Joevin Jones and Nouhou basically splitting time there.
Smith’s addition does give Schmetzer some added flexibility, though, and will likely mean Jones gets more time in the midfield where he had a breakout performance last Thursday. With the expected fixture congestion for the remainder of the season, there will likely be plenty of minutes to be spread around.