It is the day after the 2011 MLS season has ended, and preparations are in full swing for 2012. With the official lists of protected players from each of the clubs for the 2012 Expansion Draft due to come out today, teams are already making moves. The first one announced came from Chivas USA, of all clubs. They announced a short time ago that they traded for winger Ryan Smith, of Sporting Kansas City, in exchange for first- and third-round supplemental draft picks, which are in essence third- and fifth-round picks (the supplemental draft does just that - supplements the two-round SuperDraft).
Since we are a long way from preseason training, let alone the season itself, it's difficult to see how Smith might fit into Chivas, if at all. He is English-born and raised, but his Dad is American. After coming through Arsenal's academy, he bounced around the lower leagues in England, with stints in Leicester City, Derby County, Millwall, Southampton, and Crystal Palace. In 2010, he came to MLS, and joined what was then the Kansas City Wizards. He enjoyed a good first season with the Wizards before injuring his knee and having a very bad 2011 season.Following surgery on his knee in the offseason, Smith played only six matches with Sporting Kansas City in 2011, and left suddenly in the middle of season, saying he needed to take care of "family issues." At the time, it seemed he was leaving MLS, and was looking for a new club. I would speculate that perhaps he thought he could get a club in England or Europe to take him on, and maybe he was misinformed or those plans fell through. But following his departure from Kansas City came rumors that Smith did not get along with coach Peter Vermes, and perhaps was disruptive to the team overall. I have no idea if those rumors were damage control on the part of KC folks, or if there was some truth to them.
In the minutes after the trade was announced, the immediate impact on twitter was mixed. Opinions ranged from it being a characteristically terrible trade on Chivas' part, for a wantaway player who might be a head case, to it being a stroke of genius, as Smith has the talent to be a star, if only he can get his priorities in order. I have to admit, I haven't seen him play enough to be really comfortable assessing him. I think bringing a head case in is potentially bad news, but we'll have to wait and see.
There are a few scenarios at play for the moment concerning the acquisition of Smith. I hope Chivas talked it over with Smith and/or his agent prior to making this move, so that it would be realistic that he would be willing to return to MLS with a new team. If they did, then the next step is to wonder how his arrival might affect squad depth. He is a left winger, and Chivas already have Jorge Flores and Laurent Courtois in that position. With Courtois a new signing just this summer, perhaps one of the three will be switching positions on the field. Of course, it is also possible that one of the three will be moving on. Potentially, Smith could be picked up as trade bait for another team, but if that is not the case, then maybe Jorge Flores' days with the team are numbered. He had a good first half of the season as the starting left-sided midfielder, but he seemed to lose momentum as the season wore on and was essentially benched by the end of the season.
Obviously, this is a developing story, and we'll bring you the details as we find out about them. In the meantime, what do you think of the trade? What are your thoughts on Smith? Leave a comment below!