FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The surprise package of the New England Revolution’s preseason camp became the club’s fourth new signing ahead of the 2017 campaign on Wednesday afternoon, as fourth-round SuperDraft pick Josh Smith put pen to paper on his first professional contract.
Smith, who’ll turn 25 years old next week, joins London Woodberry and Je-Vaughn Watson as cover behind new central defensive signings Benjamin Angoua and Antonio Mlinar Delamea.
“It’s a great blessing,” Smith said of joining the Revolution. “It’s a prestigious environment here. The organization is great and I think it’s a great place to be.”
Smith entered camp as somewhat of a longshot to make the roster – just one fourth-round pick from the 2016 SuperDraft was signed to an MLS contract – but New England’s need for depth in central defense presented an opportunity for the hulking 6-foot-4 defender.
The University of San Francisco product made six preseason appearances, totaling 297 minutes and tacking on a goal in New England’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. He earned positive reviews from coaches and teammates, proving to be an aerial presence at both ends of the field.
Smith’s emergence in preseason was relatively seamless, although the rookie admits that his initial introduction to the professional game was somewhat humbling.
“I must say, the first couple days were really rough,” Smith said. “The speed – I mean, these guys are phenomenal. You play with players like Lee (Nguyen), like Kei (Kamara), like Chris Tierney; catching up, getting up to speed (was difficult).”
In the end, Smith did get up to speed, with a little push from his teammates.
“These guys are competitive. They want to win. It wasn’t easy,” Smith said. “They were on my back making sure that I do my job and pushing me.
“I’m thankful to be in this environment. I’m a competitor, so I want to compete and work hard.”
That attitude will serve Smith well as he enters his first professional season and continues to develop as a player, while at the same time offering important depth on the Revolution’s backline.
“I’m a rookie, and my [role] is to learn and keep improving on and off the field,” Smith said. “(I’ll) give everything to my teammates, to this great organization, and most importantly, to the fans.”