By the time FC Edmonton headed into the break between the 2015 NASL spring and fall seasons, keeper John Smits knew he wasn’t going to be back.
In 2014, he won the Golden Glove award, which goes to the keeper who posts the top goals-against average in the league. Less than a year after scooping up that trophy, he’d been relegated to the No. 3 role at FCE.
So, quietly, Smits built up his résumé. He made sure to get his highlight video reels together. And, publicly, he never complained about the situation.
Now, the Canadian keeper will get a chance to reestablish himself with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL. The team announced Thursday that it had signed Smits, but he’s been in camp with the team for a couple of weeks running. And,he knew before the New Year that Wilmington was going to be his next destination.
Getting the paperwork done and acquiring the work visa was what slowed down the team’s ability to announce the signing.
“I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be in FC Edmonton’s plans,” said Smits. “And, as mentally taxing as it was, it is, unfortunately, the nature of sports. And now I have the chance to re-prove myself.”
As a University of Toronto product, Smits had to overcome the “he’s just a CIS player” stigma — finally claiming the Eddies’ starting job and winning the NASL’s top keeper award in 2014. But, once he knew he was going to be unemployed, he found out just how hard it is for a Canadian to find a soccer job in North America.
“My agent told me that there was some MLS teams that showed some interest, but because of the foreigner rule, there’s no way they were going to use an international spot on a goalkeeper unless he’s a for-sure number-one.”
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