SANDY, Utah – Curt Onalfo had a simple command for Nathan Smith when the first-year outside back checked into the LA Galaxy’s clash with Real Salt Lake in the 58th minute.
And attack he did as he provided the spark to give the Galaxy a 2-1 victory over 10-men Real Salt Lake, helping Onalfo secure the first win of his head coaching tenure.
“The thought process was to add more to the attack,” Onalfo said. “We told him to bomb forward and to create 2v1 and other advantages on the field, and he did very well.”
Smith’s speed and technical ability provided the perfect complement for midfielder Romain Alessandrini who benefited from the youngster’s presence on the right side. With Smith pressing Salt Lake deep in their half, Alessandrini found room to create chances, most notably, his assist on Ema Boateng’s game-winner.
“[Curt] told me just to get up and down the line. I’ll take that any day. I love getting forward,” Smith, who has made two appearances for the Galaxy this season, said. “I got in good spots behind their outside midfielder. It caused a little bit of confusion like they weren’t certain in some spots. I thought it freed up Alessandrini a lot.”
The 22-year-old’s success creates a potential competition for the right spot with incumbent starter Rafael Garcia. Whether he's asked to start next week or remains an asset off the bench, Smith says he'll be ready if Onalfo calls.
“I’m progressing well. I’m confident. I’ve always been confident, so this is just adding more confidence to me,” Smith said. “Whenever the coach calls on me, I’ll be ready. [Whether I start] is all up to the coach. Ashley [Cole] is getting back next week, so it’s all situational. I’ll be ready, though.”