When Blake Smith was loaned out by the Montreal Impact back in May, one of the club’s most exciting young players was on his way to Indianapolis, to join the Indy Eleven of the NASL.
Smith, a first round draft pick in the 2013 draft, was used primarily as a substitute last season, his first in the MLS season. And he was a damn good substitute.
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He would bomb around the field, using his speed and slick ball control to create late chances for the Impact. Whenever you saw the number 19 – with his various tattoos and ever changing hairstyle – preparing to be subbed-in you knew you were in for a treat.
We caught up with Blake to ask him how he’s been doing with the Eleven and what he thinks the future holds for him with the Impact. We also asked him about a certain Indiana based movie…
La Metropole Sports: What was your original sentiment to being loaned out?
Blake Smith: “My first thought was…obviously that wasn’t the ideal step for my career, I felt I was taking a step back – going from first division to second division. But I looked at it in a positive perspective as well. I’d be getting to play a lot of games and I think games at a young age are important and so I took it as a positive to gain more confidence through playing more games than I would be getting in Montreal.”
LMS: What is one of the most important things you will be taking away from your time in Indianapolis?
Smith: “Trying to make the most of every opportunity and I think I’ll be coming away with more confidence and more preparation for when I do come back to Montreal to, hopefully, find myself a comfortable position there.”
LMS: Over the duration of your loan, was there one aspect of your game that coach Klopas you wanted to improve. Was there one area that you, yourself were looking to improve?
Aug 3, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Sainey Nyassi (27) tackles the ball away from Montreal Impact midfielder Blake Smith (19) during the second half at RFK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports
Smith: “I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I think one thing he really wanted for me was to gain more confidence in the attacking half and really be able to go at defenders, to be more aggressive in the offensive half. Also to think less while I play, so since I’ve been here, I’ve kind of not been thinking so much and just gone out and played and gone at defenders. That’s the thing I’ll be taking from Indianapolis when I go back to Montreal.”
LMS: The Eleven play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), which is a second tier league, as you said, but the quality of soccer is still very high. What are the main differences between the NASL and the MLS?
Smith: That’s a good question. I’d say, as a whole, the players are just a bit younger with lack of experience, so it may be a step slower to make a decision here and there. The athleticism is the same, pretty much, but it’s the quickness of reaction time and thinking one step ahead that’s the difference, I guess from the MLS.
LMS: The Impact recently brought in midfielders Gorka Larrea and Ignacio Piatti. With these additions, where do you think you now sit on the depth chart?
Smith: [Laughs] I honestly couldn’t tell you. I don’t know the coach’s thoughts or anything, so I just want to come back and improve myself and hopefully prove to the coaching staff that I fit in. I guess we’ll see where it goes from there.
LMS: You majored in business administration at the University of New Mexico. Was it important for you to finish your studies before setting off on your pro soccer career?
Smith: Sadly, I have not finished my degree. I still have two classes remaining. I would have liked to go into the MLS with my degree in-hand already, but unfortunately that wasn’t able to happen. What I’ve been able to do is take online classes since I have left college and slowly, but surely, I’m getting there. It is important to me to get my degree, but I’ll be finished in December, which will be nice.
LMS: You shocked Saputo Stadium when you did a backflip celebration after your first career goal last season (advance to 14 seconds in the video below). Will we be seeing any more acrobatics in the future?
Smith: Yeah! If I come back to Montreal and get to play at Stade Saputo and play in front of the home crowd, then I’ll definitely give them a celebration they will all remember and enjoy, for sure.
LMS: You’ve been in Indiana for three months now. Are you a basketball fan yet?
Smith: I grew up a basketball fan, since I’m from San Antonio. The Spurs obviously just won the title this year, so I was pretty stoked and excited about that. I [arrived in Indianapolis] towards the end of their playoff run, but it was nice to see how the city rally’s and supports their team. It was fun to see that.
LMS: When was the first time you watched ‘Hoosiers’ and did you cry?
Smith: I watched Hoosiers…oh, it’s been a year since I watched it. But I think I watched it for the first time when I was maybe…twelve years old or something like that. And I don’t remember crying, no. [Laughs]
So the big question coming out of this is, will we see Smith back in an Impact kit? And if so, when?
During his loan, Smith has appeared in ten games with the Eleven, scoring a goal and completing all the games he’s played in. The last stat is promising; it shows Smith can endure a full game at a high level, something he will need to do if he becomes a regular in Montreal.
As I mentioned in the interview, the Impact have added two midfielders to their roster. And with youngsters Maxim Tissot and Callum Mallace showing signs of promise (although the latter is more of a defensive midfielder), there are quite a few players Smith will likely have to leapfrog in order to get his chance.
So is it possible that Smith could be a contributor to the Impact next year? Yes. Does he have a spot in the starting eleven? No, but he can fight for one.
And if Blake Smith has his way, we will be seeing more high-flying acrobatics at Saputo Stadium in the near future.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story mentioned that this could be Patrice Bernier’s final season as well as Andres Romero. It has been removed for clarity. At no point did the writer or the site want to infer that Bernier was retiring or Romero not returning but simply bring up the possibility of that or of a reduced role. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Special thanks to John Koluder of the Indy Eleven communications department for setting up the interview.