TUKWILA — Brad Smith will remain a Sounder through 2019.
The Australian left back’s future in Seattle answers one of the biggest questions this summer regarding the club. Smith originally signed a short-term loan to play in Seattle through July, while his rights where still with the English Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth, but the Sounders are paying about half of his $1.14 million deal with Bournemouth.
Now, he’ll stay with Seattle through the end of this MLS season.
Smith, 25, was in the process of packing up his home to move back to England with his fiancé and newborn when he received notice from his agent earlier this week about the extension. He’s been in contact with his English club since arriving in Seattle in August 2018, sharing news about his fitness and experience. Smith also has close friends who play for Bournemouth.
“As much as I was trying to stay calm and stuff like that, in your mind, mentally, it’s kind of a difficult place to be,” he said of the process. “Everything can be unpacked now and we can settle down and get our minds right and back to business.”
The drawn out negotiations were because clubs in other countries showed interest in Smith. Chris Henderson, the Sounders vice president of soccer and sporting director, said Bournemouth is happy with the development Smith has had in Seattle.
Smith has started 18 games for the Sounders this season, recording five assists — second-best on the roster.
The Sounders (11-6-5) host Sporting Kansas City (6-9-7) at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Smith is available after an evaluation showed no setbacks to a minor right groin injury suffered in a road win against Houston last week.
“He’s been great for us,” Henderson said. “The way the team is set up and the way we attack teams, it gives opportunities to our wing backs to get forward and Brad puts teams under pressure. His speed, his ability to time his runs, his crossing in setting players up, has really helped us produce some goals and scoring chances.”
Prior to joining the Sounders, Smith made 11 appearances for Bournemouth during a two-year stint, including five appearances in Premier League competitions. He began his pro career as a teenager when reigning European Cup champions Liverpool signed Smith from Penrith, Australia.
Smith has an older brother who’s traveled to the U.S. but playing for Seattle is Smith’s first experience in the country and MLS. He was initially intrigued by the loan to display his skills for the EPL, but bonded with the Sounders players and the possibility Seattle can win the MLS Cup. The Sounders are second in the Western Conference with 38 points.
“I needed to go out and get some games and get some minutes,” he said recently. “I wasn’t playing regularly at my club. I was just playing bit parts and playing Cup games. It was the right year to go on loan. Then it was just about the interest of the teams that came in. There were a few championship teams. When Seattle came, I wanted to see what it’s about and I got a video and spoke to a few people at the club and thought it might be amazing.”
Smith has 20 caps for the Australian National Team, most recently appearing as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly loss to South Korea on June 7.
With the Sounders, he adds depth on the left side. Nouhou and Joevin Jones are other options Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer can utilize. Smith even played up at left wing against Houston before being substituted out in the 31st minute because of the injury scare.
“I’m happy to have a plethora of left-sided players on the team, those are always hard to find,” said Schmetzer following training at Starfire on Wednesday. “There was some legitimate talk about him being sold to Premier League championship teams. (Smith) is a commodity. Whatever Bournemouth’s final decision was and how it came about was good. I’m pleased. Getting (everyone) minutes will be the challenge.”