For several years, Ryan Smith was one of the top prospects in Arsenal’s youth system. In 2003, he became one of youngest players ever to represent the Arsenal first team in a Carling Cup match against Rotherham United. After leaving the Club in 2006, Smith played several more seasons in England before making the jump to America where he is currently playing in the MLS for the Kansas City Wizards.
In part two of an interview with USA.Arsenal.com’s Kevin Mooney, Smith discussed his move to America, his impressions of the MLS and where his future lies.
USA.Arsenal.com: How did your move to America come about?
Ryan Smith: “Peter Vermes is the coach here, and he came to England to see me play. I pretty much had a few other offers on the table, but I was just convinced when he came to see me and it seems like it’s working out.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Before you joined up with MLS, what were your impressions of American soccer?
Ryan Smith: “I didn’t know what to expect. I looked at some clips on YouTube and what have you, but I didn’t know what to expect. But it’s a pretty decent standard. Some teams play an English style, very direct like I mentioned earlier. I think it’s good. I think it’s positive.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Most leagues have a distinct style – England is known as fast and physical whereas Spain and Italy are usually described as more technical and tactical. Do you think the MLS has a distinct style or is it more team-by-team?
Ryan Smith: “I think it’s by team. I don’t think the league has its own style. It’s definitely by the team at the moment.”
USA.Arsenal.com: How did it feel to score in your MLS debut?
Ryan Smith: “It was nice, but more importantly we got the three points. But it was another memorable night that I had. It was nice.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Was it important to get going that quickly?
Ryan Smith: “Yeah, the problem I made with my very short career so far is I was stuck with teams that didn’t play the way I played. I suffered for three years doing that. I learned from that when I was young and what have you. I’m mature now. I have a daughter. I realize now what the best decisions to make in my life are rather than when I was younger. I was bit naïve so to speak.”
USA.Arsenal.com: How do the MLS fans stack up in terms of passion and knowledge with their English counterparts?
Ryan Smith: “We played Seattle the other week and I was really surprised! They were really vocal. There was an attendance of 37,000. You know, I was really surprised, I was really happy to see that because it made me feel like I was back home.”
USA.Arsenal.com: In addition to soccer, you have a budding career in music. What can you tell us about that?
Ryan Smith: “Music is something I’ve been doing for years, even when I was at Arsenal. It’s a hobby of mine, and a passion. It’s nothing I would consider serious unless someone was to say hey from Def Jam or a huge label, Warner Brothers or something. My main focus is my football. Music is a hobby, but we footballers have some spare time and I’m entitled to do music I think with my spare time so it’s just something I have a passion for. But I wouldn’t say it was a career!”
USA.Arsenal.com: Have you been able to follow Arsenal this season?
Ryan Smith: “All the time, of course!”
USA.Arsenal.com: You‘re still only 23 and still have a long career ahead of you. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ryan Smith: “In the Champions League back with Arsenal, hopefully. My ultimate goal is to one day to definitely go back with Arsenal. If there’s a team I want to join in England, it’s them. Definitely the only team I ever want to play for again in England. I mean, that’s wishful thinking. It might happen, it might not happen, you never know. I’ll work my hardest to try to get back home. One day.”
USA.Arsenal.com: What are your thoughts on the USA v England match this summer in South Africa?
Ryan Smith: “They’ve had some injuries this year. I’ve been hearing guys on the team speak about the World Cup, some of the American players. They’ve got a few injuries out here and probably aren’t peaking at the right time which is right now I suppose. It could all change when you get to the World Cup. I wish the U.S. all the best. I won’t sit here and say they will reach the second round or Quarter-Final because God knows what will happen, but as long as they get healthy and are ready to go, they could do well.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Do young players in America have the same opportunities as players in England?
Ryan Smith: “I don’t think so, but I think it’s getting there. It’s definitely getting there. Peter Vermes is definitely one of the protagonists for that generation of American soccer to unveil itself. To anybody who reads this interview, I would suggest you try to get to Kansas to see the Wizards!”
USA.Arsenal.com: Anything to say to the Arsenal fans?
Ryan Smith: “I follow every single game, and when I’m back home I sometimes go to the games. It’s kind of weird seeing your ex-teammates playing out there, but I just wish Arsenal all the best. I’m DYING for us to win the Champions League, absolutely dying for us.
“I am Arsenal. I was born next to the stadium. The fans know that as well. I am Arsenal through and through. I just wish Arsenal all the best and to try and get that elusive Champions League one day real soon.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 5 May 2010