BEAVERTON, Ore. – Nathan Smith is in his second year as a fullback for Portland Timbers 2, having provided valuable depth and consistency for last season’s playoff team as well as the 2019 squad, which hopes to return to the USL Championship's postseason this year.
One of the few USL signees retained by the club between seasons, Smith has been integral at both right and left back, competing with Harold Hanson on one side of the field while providing a second option to MLS-contracted Marcon Farfan on the other. Over his two years in Portland, the former LA Galaxy fullback has started 36 games, made 43 appearances and, this year, scored his first professional goal.
In terms of minutes played, only three T2 players (Todd Wharton, Foster Langsdorf, Ryan Sierakowski) have logged more minutes than Smith, and Langsdorf is the only Timbers 2 player who has logged minutes than Smith since the start of 2018.
Earlier this week, Timbers2.com caught up with the 24-year-old to talk about the team’s recent victory, his role since joining Timbers 2, and the team’s outlook as they close out the USL Championship season.
Timbers2.com: Obviously, it was a big win last Friday (6-3 over Tacoma Defiance). How does it feel to have that kind of breakthrough, especially with that attacking performance?
(Writer’s note: T2 had lost their two previous games before September 20’s visit from Tacoma; Smith played the final 45 minutes.)
Smith: The performance, it was much needed. I think we needed to see the ball hit the back of the net a couple of times to get going, and it’s great to do it against a rival.
Anytime you can win like that – that you can put six goals up – it becomes something to build off of, and I think we’re going to try to build off that as we go into this weekend and the rest of the season.
Timbers2.com: This is toward the end of your second year up here. How would you compare your experience last year with the team to your experience this year?
Smith: I think it’s pretty similar. Last year, we set a new mark by making the playoffs, and I think we want to keep that going by making the playoffs, again. And this year, we want to get a playoff win.
(Writer’s note: T2 was eliminated in the first round of last year’s by eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Rising FC.)
In terms of my role, it’s a little strange to be still a young guy but also one of the veterans, but any time I can get on the field and help out, I’m always going to put my best foot forward and help the guys.
Timbers2.com: Key stretch, here to end the regular season. What do you think are the keys for the team to be able to get back above the playoff line, get that postseason streak to two?
Smith: I think the most important thing is not only the next game but the three games we have left at home. We have to take care of business at home.
When you’re an MLS affiliate, you’re always going to have a target on your back. You have that. You are always getting players from your first team, or your academy. But at the same time, it’s nice having that target on your back. It’s nice getting to play the villain.