He is a very charismatic player , beloved by fans that quickly connected with the young left-footed midfielder. During his first pro year in 2013, he received a lot of attention by showing some skills and sprinkling some craziness on the field with his goal celebrations.
Now after a year in the NASL, where he is on the team depth chart? The Impact has a very stacked midfield and the question is whether he can play at another position to make the starting team in 2015?
To answer those questions, I have reached out to Gabe Peters, a member of The Brickyard Battalion, the official supporters group of Indy Eleven. He agreed to answer a couple of questions for us.
1-How would you describe the progression of Blake during the season?
I think Blake progressed quite well through the season. As with any sport, time on the pitch is key and Blake got a lot of minutes with Indy Eleven that allowed him to get some key goals and additional confidence that will see him continue to succeed. His touch and speed of play were good from the beginning, but continued to get better as the season progressed.
2-What position is the best fit for him?
For Indy Eleven, Blake mainly played left winger and central midfield. Blake really excels on the outside of the pitch as it gives him a little more space to run at players and serve in quality crosses. Being on the outside also allows him to be that back side run when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch that Blake makes quite good and has a keen eye for goal.
3- Is he MLS Ready or will he need to spend more time in NASL again?
I believe Blake will succeed in any league he is playing in. I think Blake could step on the pitch for the Impact now and be a contributor right away. Obviously, we would love to have him back in Indy, but I think it's fair to say Blake is an MLS calibre player.
4- On a scale of 10, how would you rate him?
Rating a player on a number scale is always difficult as there are so many factors that go into the number. I'd give Blake an 8 as a player. Blake is young and has some room for improvement that will come with some more experience at the professional level, but Blake is well on his way to being a long time professional.
Based on the conversation with Gabe, it is fair to say that Blake Smith time in NASL is over and that he needs to play at the highest level to develop at his full potential. Now does that mean that the management has to trade or release a guy to give him an opportunity to succeed?
I think that the answer of that question is yes . Right now, the team has too many players in the midfield. Though, the signings of Patrice Bernier , Marco Donadel and Nigel Reo-Coker are understandable in a certain way, having thirteen midfielders is a bit too much.
It's the reason why I think Blake Smith needs to play with the big club in 2015 and that management will make a big mistake by loaning him somewhere else or by playing him with FC Montreal in the USL Pro. He will be too dominant down there and I don't see any room for progression.
It’s time to give him playing time with the best and if the Impact is not able to do, might as well trade him before it’s too late. Other MLS teams might be interested in a young player that showed some good things in the past, including a underrated scoring touch and a quality to cross balls into the box. As the club is looking to recruit defenders, Smith could be trade bait.
It's not a move that I would condone because Smith has a great upside and an untapped potential , especially when he could be surrounded with older players. Let’s hope that Frank Klopas thinks the same way.