As the snow fell on Greater Nevada Field last Saturday in the Swope Park Rangers' 4-3 win over Reno 1868 FC, Colorado native and University of Denver product Graham Smith was unfazed by the wintry weather.
The 6'3 centerback played the full 90 minutes for SPR in his professional debut on loan from Sporting Kansas City, who drafted the 22-year-old with the 18th overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. And despite the unfavorable conditions, Smith's statline shows an impressive and impactful introduction to the pro level:
- 84 touches - 2nd most in match
- 69 passes - 2nd most in match
- 11 interceptions/duels won - most in match
Smith's eight interceptions led all USL players in Week 1 and, when comparing across the first three weeks of MLS fixtures, rank second only to Alexander Ring's 10 interceptions for NYCFC on Saturday.
The strong start for Smith comes after a successful preseason in which his fitness was on full display in the club's annual beep test and he logged minutes in five preseason matches for Sporting Kansas City in addition to three preseason friendlies with the Rangers.
Sporting Kansas City (2-1-0) continues the MLS campaign at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Colorado Rapids, while the Rangers (1-0-0) will welcome Seattle Sounders FC 2 in their home opener at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.