TUCSON, Ariz. – Identified only by the number 46 on his back, Donnie Smith made sure New England Revolution fans knew his name by the end of Saturday night’s preseason victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Smith, currently unsigned after the Revs drafted him in the second round of last month’s SuperDraft, created the Revolution’s first two goals in the come-from-behind, 3-1 victory. His long-distance drive was handled by Jamison Olave to set up Lee Nguyen’s penalty kick, before he assisted on Jerry Bengtson’s game-winner six minutes later.
Head coach Jay Heaps was particularly impressed with Smith’s anticipation and positioning in the buildup to Bengtson’s goal. Nguyen’s free kick service from the right channel was partially cleared, but only as far as Smith, who waited patiently outside the box before looping the ball back into the mix for Bengtson to bury a header.
“The play that led to Jerry’s goal was Donnie staying in a good spot on the free kick,” said Heaps. “We hit the back-post free kick – which we’ve talked about – and when you hit a back-post free kick, the second ball is going to bounce right where Donnie was. He was able to put it back into space and Jerry does a nice job inside the six.”
Smith started and played 62 minutes on the left wing against the Red Bulls, using his pace to get behind defenders and whip crosses into dangerous areas. The former UNC-Charlotte standout provides natural width and speed on the left side, something the Revs have been lacking in recent seasons.
“He’s doing really well. He’s pushing to make this team,” said Heaps. “He’s fast and he knows how to get to the byline. I think that’s what we like most about him is his ability to put his head down and go.”
As he makes his case to secure one of the Revolution’s final roster spots, Smith knows performances like Saturday night’s will boost his standing. But the 22-year-old midfielder is taking nothing for granted as he keeps his focus fixed on proving himself every day.
“It’s a boost,” Smith said after Saturday night’s showing. “But after tonight I look on to the next training session and just work my hardest to be able to earn that spot.”