New England Soccer Today

Is Donnie Smith Poised for a Big Year?

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

It’s often said that year three is when a coaching staff can truly tell whether a raw talent will make it. So credit Revolution defender/midfielder Donnie Smith for surviving to see his fifth preseason camp.

After he was waived not once, not twice, but three times early in his career, the versatile veteran now appears poised to make the next step in his development this season if Revolution coach Jay Heaps is to be believed.

“I think it’s a big year (for him),” Heaps told the media after Tuesday’s preseason match against Minnesota United. “It really is. Conversations I’ve had with him in the offseason and going into it a little bit more deeply between the two of us, but the reality is that he’s almost gotten over the hump and gotten more minutes.”

The 26-year-old Hickory, N.C. native, who trained with Portuguese Liga side Sporting CP last winter, showed flashes of his potential in 2016 while spelling left back Chris Tierney during the summer months.

In his first string of MLS minutes in over two years, the former second round pick showcased a refined sense of skill both on and off the ball in back-to-back games against Orlando City and Portland before injuries curtailed his campaign.

With the typically-reliable Tierney – one of the few purely left-footed players on the roster – also beset by injuries during parts of last season, Smith, a fellow lefty, has come to the realization the time to take the next step in his career is now.

“This is a huge year for me,” Smith told the media after the match. “I stayed in Boston this offseason just so I could work. I’ve had a lot of hamstring issues in the past, so trying to stay healthy is the main thing for me.”

Staying healthy will indeed determine whether Smith will the chance to not only get more time at left back, but potentially seize the opportunity to make the role his own with Tierney turning 31 earlier this month.

“The games that Chris Tierney might not be able to play – I want to be able to be in that spot and start those games,” Smith said. “So it’s very important to do that this year.”

So far, so good. In Tuesday’s preseason opener against Minnesota, Smith set up Kei Kamara for the Revolution’s solitary strike en route to a 1-1 draw.

It’s too early to tell whether Smith, whose been a bonafide a camp star throughout his time in New England, will finally parlay his preseason form into regular minutes once the matches become meaningful.

But the opportunity is certainly there for the taking.

“(He) took a couple unlucky injuries last year,” Heaps said. “But he’s someone that we want to see get more minutes and push Chris (Tierney) for certain time, but also give Chris a rest when he needs a rest.”

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