It's sink or swim for Timbers' newest Scotsman
PORTLAND, Ore. – Fresh starts don’t come around every day, and Steven Smith has been searching for his.
And he’s got it now, with the Portland Timbers.
The former Glasgow Rangers defender (above, right) landed in the Rose City a month ago as a trialist, signed on with the Timbers a few weeks later and already has two starts under his belt.
“I would prefer that, to be honest,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com after the team’s Thursday training session. “I would rather just get thrown in the deep end and either sink or swim. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the games I’ve played. Hopefully my performances will get better quickly.”
Smith made his debut with the Rangers of the Scottish Premier League in 2004 as a 19-year-old. But injuries have plagued the former prodigy ever since, leading to stints Norwich City, Aberdeen and most recently Preston North End of the English League One.
Now, he’s hoping a call from his fellow countryman Kris Boyd, a former teammate with the Rangers, telling him to hop a flight to Oregon will get his career back on track.
“It wasn’t that difficult of a decision once I came over and seen the place, and the facility and spoke to the coach,” Smith said.
But Smith’s next chapter doesn’t come without challenges of its own.
Portland are off to a difficult start to their 2012 campaign and have gone winless in eight of their last nine games since starting the season with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on March 12.
The Timbers have struggled both on defense – having given up an MLS-leading seven goals in the final 15 minutes of games – and offense, with no goals in the last four games.
Smith is hoping his veteran presence can help stem the negative tide.
“I think I’m old enough now to know what’s happening and what’s going wrong,” Smith said. “These things happen. That’s soccer. There’s a lot of talent here. It’s maybe not clicking together 100 percent right now.”
Smith’s results have been mixed in his two games.
He started in Portland’s 2-0 loss April 28 in Montreal just days after he signed with the team and was whistled for an inadvertent handball that led to a goal.
But in Tuesday’s scoreless draw against the Dynamo in Houston, Smith was part of an impressive back line effort.
“Steven has impressed us, both on and off the field,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer, also a Scotsman and former Rangers player.
Now, finally settled in Portland with his fiancé and two children set to come to town after their June 15 wedding, Smith sees big things for himself and his new club.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve played in and I’m just looking forward to playing in more games and having some success.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.