In the backyard of the Smith-Hastie house in Brentwood, three brothers would put out a soccer ball and engage in family battles while their golden retriever, Leo, watched and waited for a winner to be declared.
“It really was the World Cup,” the oldest brother, Elliot, said. “It was do or die.”
Elliot would go on to be the Gatorade state player of the year as a senior at Los Angeles Loyola High in 2016 before moving on to Boston College.
The middle brother, Henry, is Loyola’s leading scorer this season with 13 goals on the No. 1 team in Southern Section Division 1 and headed to Southern Methodist on a scholarship. And the third brother, Nate, is a sophomore earning increased playing time on a squad loaded with seniors.
How could three boys with parents who grew up in Australia become soccer standouts when there was no family influence for the sport other than the brothers watching Manchester United on TV?
“It’s kind of strange,” Henry said. “We grew up watching ManU on TV and started playing [in the American Youth Soccer Organization] like everyone else. We kind of fell in love with the sport. It was all soccer from 6 years old for all of us.”
In 2009, the three received their greatest Christmas presents when Mom and Dad each gave each of them a signed Manchester United jersey. Henry got Wayne Rooney, Elliot received Ryan Giggs and Nate got Michael Owen. All are hanging in their rooms.
Henry is the tallest brother at 6 feet 2; Elliot is 5-9 and Nate 5-8.
“For some reason, I’m taller than everyone else in my family,” Henry said. “I win more headers, and being athletic it helps outpower opponents.”
Elliot does have one advantage over his brothers. He was born in London and has passports from England, Australia and the United States. The others have only two.
“I’m a bit jealous for that,” Henry said. “He got lucky being born in England. He’s got the European passport.”
Elliot played on Loyola’s Southern Section championship team in 2014. It helped convince Henry to give up playing in U.S. Soccer’s developmental Academy League when he entered high school so he could play with his big brother. The two were together when Loyola won a regional title in 2016.
“I saw the experience that he had playing for his high school and all the fun he had winning a CIF championship,” Henry said of playing for Loyola instead of continuing on in the Academy League. “I was at that game when he won and I just thought that was the greatest thing ever, and the Academy League wasn’t for me, so I chose to play high school and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“I’ve improved a lot through my four years, got a great college opportunity and have made some of my best friends on the soccer team.”
Now Nate is enjoying his time playing with Henry.
“It means a lot being on the field with him,” he said.
Asked what he has learned from his brothers, Nate said, “Passion.”
Henry, a four-year starter for the Cubs, is starting to realize his high school days soon will be concluding, leaving it up to Nate to keep the family tradition going.