The reunion between New England midfielder Khano Smith and his former and current employers started with a casual conversation and an informal arrangement.
“I just came and trained,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “Shalrie [Joseph] said to Stevie [Nicol], 'Khano's here.' He said, 'well, why don't you just tell him to come to training.' So I came for training and it went from there.”
Returning to New England to keep in shape wasn't in Smith's plan when he left the Revolution in November 2008, but the Bermudan international found himself without a gig after a whirlwind year saw him join three different clubs in two countries.
The journey started when Seattle selected Smith in its expansion draft. Smith didn't play a game for Sounders FC in 2009 before the club shipped him to New York. Six months later, following a few substandard performances and one unhappy spell under former Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, Smith found himself out of a job.
With his MLS options extinguished for the moment, Smith opted to try his luck abroad and landed at English League Two side Lincoln City on a short-term deal. The move didn't suit Smith, who struggled to adjust to the direct style employed by Lincoln manager Chris Sutton. He had a hard time coping with the rigors of starting a new life away from his adopted American homeland.
“A lot of people say a lot of things about American soccer, but over there, they don't -- or at least we didn't -- attempt to pass the ball,” Smith said. “I had to look for quick runs from forwards. They can say what they want about American soccer, but at least we try and play.”
After Lincoln didn't extend his deal and Brentford didn't offer him a contract after a brief trial spell, Smith decided to head back to Boston to assess his options.
When Smith joined the Revolution, he had no offer on the table and no promise that one would arrive. As he trained with the Revs, his agent scoured for other offers and assessed the possibility of a deal in second division.
It turns out that Smith didn't need to go anywhere. Once New England decided to release Gabriel Badilla prior to the roster compliance deadline, the Revolution had an open roster spot and a former midfielder more than willing to sign a reasonable deal to fill it.
Nicol said he decided to make the informal relationship permanent once again because Smith offers tactical flexibility in addition to the pace he has always shown.
“He gives us an option to play five in the middle,” Nicol said. “That's really what it is. Until we got Khano back, I didn't think we had the personnel to play with five across the middle. I feel we now have that option.”