D.C. United has continued its frenetic reconstruction of their squad today, after completing a trade with the Seattle Sounders for wingback Brad Smith. United sent $750,000 in General Allocation Money to the Sounders to bring in the 27-year-old Australian, who will be the favorite to emerge as the Black-and-Red’s starting left wingback once Kevin Paredes completes a reported $7 million transfer to VfL Wolfsburg. Seattle has also retained a 10% share of any transfer fee United might get if they move Smith abroad.
In a team release, United General Manager Lucy Rushton said “Brad’s physical attributes and work rate paired with the attacking mindset he carries make him an ideal player for our style and philosophy. As well as being an excellent defender, he’s a consistent contributor in the final third. We believe with Brad’s introduction that we have the strongest complement of attacking fullbacks in the league. The quality of service that both he and Julian Gressel – who led all defenders last season in assists from his right wingback role – possess are a center forward’s dream, and will prove a constant goal threat for us going forward.”
“Brad brings a wealth of top-flight experience to our club. From his time at the highest level in England with Liverpool FC and Bournemouth AFC in the Premier League, to his experience on the international stage for Australia, we will be getting a player who knows what it takes to compete at the top,” added Dave Kasper, United’s President of Soccer Operations, in the release. “He’s been an elite attacking fullback in our league since he joined the Sounders in 2018, and his track record and winning pedigree will make an immediate impact on our squad.”
Though Australian, Smith started out as a player in England, joining Liverpool’s academy. He made five appearances for the Reds in the Premier League, and had what was to be a season-long loan to Swindon Town in League One cut off early due to a dispute between the clubs. He then moved to AFC Bournemouth, but saw little playing time in two seasons.
That eventually brought him to MLS, with Seattle acquiring him on a one-year loan in the summer of 2018 that they eventually extended to last all the way through the end of the 2019 season. During that spell, Smith impressed, putting up 7 assists in 31 regular season appearances (28 starts), helping Seattle win the 2019 MLS Cup.
However, that winter, Bournemouth loaned him out to Cardiff City in the English Championship, where Smith saw little playing time as the pandemic settled in on world soccer. That lead to the Sounders coming back in for him in September 2020, as his Bournemouth contract had come to an end. Down the stretch in 2020 and throughout 2021, Smith made 32 appearances (21 starts), scoring 3 goals and adding 4 assists.
Smith, whose parents are English, represented England throughout the youth national team levels, but changed his affiliation to Australia in 2014 and has 21 caps for the Socceroos, including three starts in their qualifying campaign for this year’s World Cup.
Despite being a regular factor for the Sounders, Smith’s salary and a projected move away from using wingbacks made him somewhat extraneous for the Sounders, just as United found themselves in need of a wingback due to Wolfsburg’s reported move to sign Paredes a transfer window earlier than United had expected. That made the GAM fee involved a surprisingly high one, with rumors initially pointing to a deal in the $150,000-200,000 range.
Still, United has recently gained quite a bit GAM, and while there are players on United’s roster who could fill in at left wingback, the only other option with any real experience in the role is Gaoussou Samaké, who was signed after spending last season with Loudoun United in the USL Championship. Smith figures to step in as the presumptive starter, and will offer speed, a direct style of play that compliments Hernán Losada’s style of play, and a track record that points to producing in MLS as a wingback rather than being a fullback or winger that has to be converted.
Adding Smith brings United up to 24 players under contract for the moment, but it’s a figure that could rapidly change. Paredes is expected to be announced as a Wolfsburg player in the coming days, while Jon Kempin is expected to sign a new contract and has been in DCU’s preseason from day one. United has reportedly signed Taxiarchis Fountas on a pre-contract that would see him join the club in July, but the Washington Post has reported that the Black-and-Red are interested in moving that timeline up to sometime in this transfer window. They’ve also been strongly linked to a move for Toluca striker Michael Estrada that could materialize shortly. There is also the prospect of offering deals to out-of-contract players like Júnior Moreno and Felipe Martins, while rumors that Golden Boot runner-up Ola Kamara might be traded or transferred abroad have persisted throughout the winter.