Sweet­ness in Seat­tle

Smith is ea­ger to make up for lost time as he chases medal ‘first’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RACING - TOM SMITHIES

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.