For Brad Smith, lure of Seattle Sounders family reunion too much to pass up

Brad Smith - Nicolas Lodeiro - celebrating at LAFC

As Brad Smith's contract at Bournemouth expired this summer, the Australian fullback found himself examining what was important to him.

And despite other offers to remain in England, when the Seattle Sounders reached out about a potential union, the genuine sense of belonging he felt during his previous 18-month loan spell was impossible to ignore.

That, as much as anything else, is why the Rave Green were able to land the 26-year-old again, this time on a two-and-a-half-year deal made official on Thursday.

"I came to Seattle on loan not knowing what to expect, and I loved it," Smith said during a conference call. "I could’ve stayed in England. But I wanted to come out here and be back with Sounders family."

Part of that sentiment probably owed to the joy of being a key contributor on an MLS Cup winner, especially compared to his most recent half-season loan at Cardiff City, where he played only 15 minutes over three appearances.

But it's also based on the friendships Smith built with goalkeeper Stefan Frei and winger Jordan Morris, among others, the open lines of communication he kept with managing owner Adrian Hanauer, and the general sense of appreciation he felt around CenturyLink Field and the Starfire Sports Complex.

Watch: The Best of Brad Smith in Seattle

"I think it’s a testament to the club, the players, the staff members they’ve got around the place," Smith said. "As a whole, they want you here, they make you feel loved. And I feel like that’s what footballers want, you know? They want to feel special."

The Sounders weren't eager to part with Smith following their 2019 MLS Cup win, but with other quality options at left back, weren't inclined to spend the money it would've taken to secure a permanent transfer.

That changed when he became a free agent, and COVID-19 may have made him an even more attractive acquisition.

"In the pandemic, it’s really, really hard right now," said Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey. "To state the obvious, we can’t go watch players live. And so to get a known commodity I think was particularly fortunate for us."

Those other left-back contributors — Joevin Jones and Nouhou Tolo — remain on the squad, meaning Smith isn't a sure bet to attain the starting role. But both Smith and Jones can also play in midfield, with Jones earning Team of the Week plaudits for his work on the right wing in the Sounders' history-making 7-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend.

"It gives us competition in the squad and it gives us optionality," Lagerwey said. "Honestly, it makes us better in four or five different ways. It certainly adds an explosive layer to our team."