KINGS POINT, N.Y. – It may be a decade from when he coached at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, but Adam Smith still uses the lessons he learned at the school.
Smith, who was an assistant under head coach Mike Smolens and associate head coach John Fitzgerald, is the goalkeeper coach of the expansion Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer.
"It was a wonderful experience, a wonderful coaching experience," Smith said after the Timbers lost to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Saturday night. " I actually didn't realize how good it was until I left many, many years later.
"After I sort of matured a little bit, in my own development as a coach, and I looked back at some of the things coach Smolens and coach Fitzgerald implemented at the organization and the things they did with the players, I had actually started to carry some of those things through with the players I worked with, especially the older players in the youth teams. . . . I'm very grateful for the opportunity they gave me many years ago."
A native of Liverpool, England, the 39-year-old Smith has some roots on Long Island, as a goalkeeper for the Long Island Rough Riders, who won the old USL Second Division championship in 2002. He went on to play for the 2003 champions, Wilmington Hammerheads before an injury ended his career at the age of 32. He said he ended up in Iowa, "of all places," as a director of coaching for a youth organization.
Smith knew Portland was going to join MLS as an expansion side this season. He knew the team's technical director Gavin Wilkinson from playing together in the past and head coach John Spencer.
"I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to come and prove myself on a trial period with the organization, which led to a fulltime contract," Smith said.
No one has to remind Smith that he has a dream job.
"It is," he said. "Just to be involved in soccer, period, whatever it is, something you love, is a great job. To be involved at this level, in this country at the highest level, is obviously fantastic."
Smith has earned the respect of the players, including starting goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
"Adam is just like any other goalkeeper, to be honest with, always quirky," Perkins said. "He's the weirdest one out of all of us."
But seriously, folks.
"But, no, he's a great guy," Perkins said. "He's constantly analyzing everything we do, from training to games. We always talk, we always watch video. I think it's fantastic. He's done a great job."
The Timbers are trying to reach the MLS playoffs in their first season. They trail the New York Red Bulls for the 10th and final post-season berth in the 18-team league.
"The results have gone against us tonight," he said referring to Portland's loss and D.C. United's 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake. "But we're still in with a shout. We've got a few games to go and we still can pick up some points. I think it will go right to the wire and we'll see what will happen. If we make the playoffs, it will be a fantastic achievement for everybody concerned."