Brad Smith tosses geography aside when considering the location of home.
While he’s from Australia, Seattle is home to Smith and his re-signing with the Sounders offers a welcomed reunion for both Smith and the team. Smith’s deal with Seattle — announced Thursday — runs through 2022.
Smith was initially acquired by the Sounders in August 2018 through a loan agreement with AFC Bournemouth. The English Premier League club extended the loan with the Sounders in July 2019, but recalled Smith last winter and loaned him to play for Sky Bet Championship team Cardiff City FC in Wales, where he appeared in three matches as a substitute.
The Bournemouth contract expired last month, making Smith a free agent. Despite having offers to remain in Europe, Smith chose the Sounders. His MLS contract was back loaded to help with salary constraints under the 2020 cap, Smith occupying the club’s final international spot.
“This place has had a special place in my heart ever since I arrived here,” Smith said of Seattle via a video conference call with media. He arrived Wednesday and is required to quarantine for 10 days before joining training with the club.
“Going away from it was quite upsetting,” Smith said of his return to England with his wife and newborn son. He returns a father of two boys. “Being back (in Europe) was difficult. I always knew I wanted to come back. It was a lot of stuff that had to be worked out but I’m glad it all got sorted in the end and I’m super happy to be back.”
Smith started 26 MLS matches for the Rave Green last season, including the four playoff wins to help the Sounders clinch the championship. He was third on the roster in MLS regular-season assists at six and had eight total.
Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ general manager and president of soccer, said Smith’s return creates flexibility in a lineup where Nouhou and Joevin Jones have already established themselves as strong options at fullback this season.
Nouhou had a stellar performance as a starter in the MLS is Back tournament in Florida this summer and started two matches this month. Jones has bounced from left back to right wing, recording a brace and two assists at winger in the 7-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes last week.
Smith, 26, said he’s retained fitness despite not playing much since his departure. Although Smith plans to compete to be the expected first-choice selection at left back, an anticipated crammed schedule due to play amid the coronavirus pandemic makes position depth and lineup versatility a necessity.
MLS hasn’t released the remainder of the regular-season schedule, but the Sounders will play twice in the span of five days beginning next week. The matches also require same-day flights to play at the Portland Timbers (Sept. 23) and Los Angeles Galaxy (Sept. 27).
“Left back was not a position of need,” Lagerwey said during a video conference call with media Thursday. “The thing that Brad does is he allows you to play differently. You can now play with a left back who has an overwhelming speed in the counterattack-type option. You can go defensive with Nouhou. You can play creative. The optionality this gives us is really remarkable. … In that compressed set of games, it allows you to play different players in different ways and rotate the squad a little bit more.”