Finally Home: Fourth-year pro Smith makes his long-awaited home debut for Revs

Donnie Smith

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Donnie Smith waited 1,197 days to make his home debut.

Drafted by the New England Revolution in the second round of the SuperDraft on January 17, 2013, Smith made just two league appearances in his first three-plus years with the club, both on the road.

But with Chris Tierney injured, Smith finally got an opportunity to step out in front of the Foxborough faithful on Wednesday night against Portland, playing the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw.

“It was awesome, because I hadn’t played at home yet in my career. It was great to be out in front of the home fans,” Smith said. “I found out a couple days ago that I was going to be starting, so coach helped me prepare to get in the right state of mind to be able to play the full 90.”

Not only was Wednesday night’s appearance Smith’s first at home, it was his first anywhere in MLS play for more than two years. His previous two league starts came in the season opener his rookie year (March 9, 2013) and the second game of the 2014 campaign (March 15, 2014).

And both of those appearances were at left midfield, before the Revs had converted him to the backline. Smith had previous experience playing in the U.S. Open Cup and with the Rochester Rhinos on the left side of defense, but he admitted it was still a bit of an adjustment at the MLS level.

“I felt pretty comfortable,” Smith said. “The first 15 minutes, obviously, I was a little hectic, nervous. Once I got a couple passes off, got a couple crosses off, I felt pretty comfortable in the game. All the nerves go away and you just play.”

Head coach Jay Heaps knows that it hasn’t been easy for Smith, who totaled just 98 minutes of MLS action through his first three years with the team. He’s trained hard every day – whether it be with the Revs in Foxborough or with the Rhinos in Rochester – patiently waiting to be called upon.

After a strong performance against the Timbers, and with Tierney still struggling with a hamstring injury, Smith may well get another opportunity to play in front of the Gillette Stadium crowd on Saturday night when Orlando City SC comes to town.

“I thought Donnie did great tonight,” Heaps said. “He’s strong, he’s physical and he can make plays. He’s as fast as there is in this league. I thought he had a good game. I thought he did all the things we asked and he provided service. Now we just need that final ball.”