CARSON, Calif. – Nathan Smith is just a rookie, but the LA Galaxy's young outside back is already making a name for himself.
Smith, 22, made his second start and third appearance of his fledgling Major League Soccer career last Saturday during the team's 4-2 defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Facing a talented Whitecaps attack on the road, Smith did not shrink from the opportunity as he seemed at ease on both sides of the ball.
From his position stationed behind Romain Alessandrini on the left flank, Smith found his niche with his ability to not only cover the Frenchman’s runs but also complement him on the offensive end.
“I feel like I’m adapting really well. Just from training every day with the guys that we have makes it a lot easier to make the jump. I want to know everything. From situational to communication to decision making, I just want to learn from everyone and grow in the experiences,” Smith told LA Galaxy Insider. "I think I make it hard for teams to play against me one v. one and I think I’m doing well possessing the ball. I think that [Romain and I] have a good connection. When I go wide, he’s inside, and when I tuck in, he goes wide. It gives the defenses problems, and they must worry about us being in their blind spot.”
Following the match, head coach Curt Onalfo praised his rookie's performance.
“He had a good game. He did a good job. He stepped in and played with a lot of confidence. He got forward well and for the most part did well with the ball. I thought he had a good performance,” Onalfo said. “It’s a big jump [between USL and MLS], and he’s earned the right to get the opportunity to start, and he’s made the most of his opportunity.”
Onalfo isn’t the only one to compliment the youngster’s guile as captain Jelle Van Damme; a left back by trade, has always been impressed with Smith’s start.
“He did well. He can only get better and improve. He’s a young kid with a good mentality,” Van Damme said. “He’s getting more mature with more games that he plays. He’s a good young kid who wants to learn and that’s a very good ability to have as a young soccer player.”
After spending three seasons with UCLA, the former Galaxy Academy product made the jump to Galaxy USL affiliate LA Galaxy II. During his time with Onalfo’s Los Dos squad, Smith excelled making 25 appearances in all competitions for the team.
“I think it was important because it was a big step for me to take as I grow as a player at the professional level and I got more experience as well," he said. "I knew that [Curt] trusted me and I trusted him, and that gave me all the confidence.”
Despite his early success, the talented outside back understands that he’s still got plenty of room to grow as he continues his first season in Major League Soccer.
“I think I can continue to get better each day. I haven’t reached my best, but I’m getting better each day,” Smith said. “It doesn’t change my mentality whether I’m starting or not starting, I’m just going to try to continue to work hard each day and get better. More games, the more I’ll get better from experience.”