Sweetness in Seattle
Smith is eager to make up for lost time as he chases medal ‘first’
IT’LL take Brad Smith nearly 16 hours to fly almost 11,000km to represent his country, but the trip will pass a lot more quickly if he has an MLS Cup winner’s medal in his pocket.
The 25-year-old becomes the first Australian to play in the MLS Cup final tomorrow, underlining the dramatic change in fortunes for a player whose career had nosedived after leaving EPL giants Liverpool.
Back in the national team after the heartache of missing last year’s World Cup, Smith is keen to make up for lost time – starting with knocking over Toronto in the MLS showpiece in front of 70,000 fans at Seattle Sounders’ CenturyLink Field, before taking three flights to Jordan for Australia’s World Cup qualifier early on Friday (AEDT).
It’s not the MLS final many would expect from a league featuring names such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Wayne Rooney, but Seattle deserve to be there after knocking out favourites LA FC in the semi-final.
“There was a lot of emotion after that game, then learning we’d be at home in the final in front of 70,000 people or more,” Smith told The Sunday Telegraph. “It’s been a strange few years for me, being at Liverpool, then Bournemouth and finally coming to Seattle where to be honest I had no idea what to expect.
“It’s very different to the EPL, as you can imagine, but I’ve enjoyed every minute, living in a great city. The icing on the cake would be to win the final, and bring a winner’s medal with me.”
It wasn’t how the story was supposed to play out after he left Liverpool, where he’d come through the youth system, to seek regular game time at Bournemouth.
Just five EPL games in three seasons, plus a smattering of cup appearances, damaged him on the international stage.
“Missing out on going to the World Cup last year really hurt,” he said. “I’d played in quite a few of the qualifiers (under Ange Postecoglou), and got more minutes than most.
“To miss out on the actual tournament, through injury and lack of game time … that was very painful, and it fuelled me to seek game time somewhere else. I needed to go and find some confidence.
“Playing for your country at any time is an honour, so to have almost two years out of the team was difficult. That’s why I don’t mind this trip now, no matter how long it is. I like the set up of the Socceroos now, like the culture, it feels like a team that’s enjoying itself.”
Big decisions lie ahead, with Smith still technically a Bournemouth player until next July, and his loan spell at Seattle expiring after the final.
“As things stand I’ve got no idea what’s next, I just want to get the final out of the way first,” he said. “I’ll head off to the Socceroos, have a short break, then my agent will sit down with Bournemouth, Seattle and anyone else.
“But right now I’m a Seattle player and we’ve got this huge game to look forward to.”
Socceroo Brad Smith.