Down 1-0 at halftime in Portland this past Saturday, Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser was searching for a catalyst to ignite his offense.
Enter Ryan Smith.
The English winger came on at the start of the second half and made an immediate impact for the Rojiblancos, needing just two minutes to send in a pinpoint cross to Alejandro Moreno for the equalizer. Then in the 82nd minute, Smith delivered again, whipping in a cross that midfielder Nick LaBrocca headed in for the capper, giving his side a 2-1 win over the Timbers in Portland.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 1, Chivas USA 2
For a club that had been searching for a little added aggression in the attack, Smith’s display was just what the doctor ordered.
“I just came in and did what I get paid for,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday night. “I just put the ball in, dangerous service, and try and help us score goals. It’s all instinct for me, when I have the ball at my feet I love it, and to dribble at players and beat people on the run. But there is no point in that if you can’t get a good service in.
“Today I pulled it off, our backs were against the wall and it looked like it might be another loss, but we pulled ourselves out of it and got our win.”
His two assists aside, Smith was a threat seemingly whenever he touched the ball. He didn't get on it much as Portland shifted their scheme to try to shut down service to the flanks - the Opta Chalkboard had Smith making just 17 passes in the half - but when he did, he usually made a play.
Following the match, Fraser was full of praise for his speedy winger.
“Smith was brilliant,” Fraser told reporters at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday. “He came in in the second half and, right from the outset, he put his stamp on the game. He was immediately giving the right backs some problems and was looking to be a threat. In the end of the day, he got two assists and put in a number of good crosses.”
After a dynamic performance as a substitute – his second stint off the bench this season – the Englishman believes that he may have done his part to earn a regular place in Fraser’s starting XI.
“I’d hope so,” said Smith. “Prior to tonight, we’d only scored one goal and that goal was away at Salt Lake, and it came from me starting, and I’ve been involved in all three goals so far this year, so I’m just happy to help the teams in any way that I can.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.