Amherst’s Davis Smith signs pro soccer deal with German squad Chemnitzer FC

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-02-2023 6:58 PM

Davis Smith considered the paradox of a water bottle. The same brand costs 50 cents in bulk at a grocery store, a little over a dollar at a gas station, a few dollars on a plane and even more inside a stadium or concert venue. It’s the same bottle but valued differently depending on its location.

Smith, an Amherst native, didn’t feel valued properly playing for Rochester (N.Y.) FC in the MLS Next Pro league, a third-tier U.S. league. The 6-foot-7 striker who played collegiately at UMass and Providence only appeared in 10 games. The league is geared toward younger players and a more technical style.

He reached out partially on a whim to former Chicopee Comp and Springfield College standout Ryan Malone, who’d built a seven-year career in Germany, in January. Smith didn’t know Malone directly, but they had mutual friends and coaches through the Western Mass Pioneers club program.

“Just hoping something would come up,” Smith said.

Malone responded the next day. He’d seen Smith’s tape and thought there could be something for him. Smith always dreamed of playing in Europe and especially Germany because his father Greg Smith grew up in Weisbaden. After a lull, he heard from Malone again in February and was connected with his agent Philipp Michaelis.

“I was confident in my abilities, but the coach at Rochester saw it differently,” Smith said. “I knew how good of a player I was. Luckily Ryan and Phillip saw this too.”

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They arranged a trial for him in March with the fourth division side Chemnitzer FC. Smith spent a week in Chemnitz, about an hour northwest of the border with Poland. The local press marveled at the “two-meter giant from the USA.”

“We don’t have that many players of that size in our squad. He did quite well,” coach Christian Tiffert told the Freie Presse, the region’s daily paper.

The club wanted to sign him, but it took longer due to budgetary concerns. Chemnitzer has mostly been a third division or second division club for most of its near-century long history.

“They have a big following because of that. Fans expect them to play at a higher league,” Smith said.

He hadn’t heard anything definitive by the start of the preseason in June, but Smith showed up anyway. He wanted to play and train. Cheminzter signed him officially two weeks ago after an arduous work visa process.

“The stadium’s like a 10,000 seat stadium. It’s mind-boggling. This is a four league game and the stadium is nicer than a lot of MLS stadiums. Fans are absolutely crazy,” Smith said. “It’s just different over here. People say it’s a culture, and it really is.”

Smith has only engaged in that culture through sport so far. He wakes up, trains, then recovers. His goal is to to start for his new team.

“That’s all I really want to do. I’m pretty singularly focused like that. In the offseason, I’m lifting weights or training,” Smith said. “To be able to play this sport, I take nothing for granted.”

German soccer fits Smith’s style much better than the MLS Next Pro. It’s more physical.

“People think higher of me,” Smith said. “Sometimes people value you more, and I’m valued more over here.”

His life hasn’t changed much since he first left Williston Northampton to play at UMass. He’s playing the sport he loves and enjoying it, but every once in a while Smith takes a step back and looks at the whole picture rather than individual steps.

“I feel extremely fortunate,” he said. “Everyone wants to act like they’re a self-made man. I’m far from that. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family and other people.”

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