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Right man for the job, or another Rapids mistake?


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According to multiple MLS sources, the Colorado Rapids are set to name Gary Smith as the team’s new head coach in a press conference later today. The hiring doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it raises the question of whether the Rapids are making their second poor coaching hire in a row.

Smith took over for Fernando Clavijo, who left the team for personal reasons, and compiled a 4-4-2 record as interim head coach (he also won a game as coach in Clavijo’s absence the week before Clavijo stepped down). Players commended Smith’s approach to the game and credited him for the team’s improved late-season form.

What remains to be seen whether that improvement had more to do with Clavijo’s departure than Smith taking over the team.

It was an open secret that several Rapids players hated playing for Clavijo and the change in attitude and improved play after Clavijo’s departure could have been driven as much by a sense of relief among Colorado players as it was by Smith’s player-friendly coaching style.

Clavijo spent four years with Colorado, and while he did lead the Rapids to a pair of Western Conference finals thanks to two first-round series upset wins over FC Dallas, Clavijo failed to post a winning regular season record in any of his four seasons in Colorado (or any of his parts of three seasons as New England head coach either).

For all his struggles, Clavijo was also handcuffed by a Rapids front office with a reputation for being cheap and pretty clueless when it comes to handling player contract negotiations and on-field soccer issues in general.

In selecting Smith, the Rapids passed on at least two quality candidates with much stronger ties to MLS in former Rapids star and current Houston assistant John Spencer, as well as former Rapids standout defender and current Real Salt Lake assistant Robin Fraser.

To his credit, Smith did win over a Rapids locker room in turmoil, and helped bring the best out of a team that had struggled badly for much of the season. Players such as Conor Casey, Mike Petke and Mehdi Ballouchy enjoyed considerable improvement under his watch, and only a last-minute goal in the regular season finale kept the Rapids out of the playoffs.

Will Smith become the latest European coach to struggle and ultimately fail in MLS because of a lack of experience and knowledge of MLS, or will his year on the bench for the Rapids be enough experience to help him adjust and become a quality head coach?

What do you think of Gary Smith being Colorado’s new head coach? Share your thoughts below.


  1. I like the english managers. They certainly do not lack passion and their teams play hard.

    Spencer and Paul Mariner will get choice jobs in due course. I believe the MLS in the short run should strive to be on par with the english Championship and this is a good route to that.

  2. No matter who Colorado brings, this club will always suck with the front office they have. NO MATTER WHO THEY BRING! I guarantee you that. MLS should learn something from the Rapids owners that they need to only accept passionate, dedicated people in the league, not just rich f***ers with money and just want to explore the opportunity. MLS office is really doing a bad job by accepting any one just because of the millions they have.

  3. he’ll do fine…. he has an entire off season to work with his squad… and lets not forget that the players like him more (altho thats not saying much if they hated their previous coach)… he had some positive games during his short stint, he knows the team’s chemistry… do NOT pull a NY and get a new coach…

    he has the experience as a player and some coaching exp…. he’ll do fine so long as the FO dont F’ it up

  4. I have heard from at least one of the players that they love Smith and are hoping he will get to stay on. The Arsenal tie can only help. BIG question is what will Smith do with Christian Gomez.

  5. The team wasn’t that much improved. I would think that a “shake up” would involve some of the players actually being accountable for their play. I didn’t see imagination–or even an increased work effort under Smith. The team actually made two or three passes that connected before losing possession–but you could see at least six youth teams in the area that would do that more effectively.

    go out and hire the club youth coaches–you’ll certainly get a higher degree of accountability.

  6. I think he did a GREAT job with Colorado in his limited time in control there. The league also needs some new coaching blood.

    It’s not valid to say that he just succeeded with a team happy to see Clavijo gone given that he made the VERY bold move to bench $400k signing Christian Gomez and the team IMPROVED without this player.

  7. I was hoping for Spencer, although I can’t really justify Spencer ahead of Smith.

    Colorado has a great new stadium, the club just needs a coach who is on the same page as the front office. Frankly I’m tired of watching organizational assets squandered (e.g. Christian Gomez) without any level of accountability by the Rapids staff. Bad scouting (C Gomez, Roberto Brown, etc.) and bad coaching (Clavijo) have handicapped this club for a while.

    I support the Rapids players and coaches, it’s unfortunate that the organization overall has been more of a detriment than catalyst in building a club.

  8. I respect Smith. He recognized that Christian Gomez wasn’t playing worth a rat’s behind and was willing to bench him despite the fact that your suppose play guys that cost that much. The biggest benefit Smith had down the stretch was a healthy Petke and a healthy + in-form Conor Casey.

    Are there concerns that he might struggle with all the crazy American rules in regards to player acquisitions? Sure – That is going to be case with any first time coach in the MLS. As an American, the MLS rules perplex me at times.

  9. It cant be any worse than the coaching decision RSL made. Granted….they have had lady luck on their side. JK is not capable of sustaining his recent success for years to come.

  10. I’m nervous about the learning curve Smith will have with regards to the draft and player acquisition rules. As you pointed out the Rapids don’t have a good history of trades and acquisitions so if the same people are teaching Smith how things work, where will that leave us.

    I do admire what Smith did once made the man after Clavijo, but agree that a lot of people could have done well after Clavijo.

  11. I think that if the Rapids were really interested in utilizing their Arsenal connection, they would bring in an Arsenal scout and have him identify talent for the Rapids.

    That team has been mismanaged for so long that it’s just sad. How do you bring in a player like Christian Gomez, guarantee him a job for 3? years, pay him a crap load of money, and not use him?

    I think Smith fails, not because he’s a bad coach, but because he’s working for a bad organization. They need a legitimate GM and an owner that is willing to invest more into his club than a swanky new stadium.

  12. While I would have loved to see Spencer come back as coach, I can’t help but love what Smith has done. The team seems to be solidly behind Smith, much more so than they ever were with Clavijo. Smith has shown a willingness to put out the best players at game time, regardless of star status. I for one like this hire, but I guess time will tell if I am right.

  13. I have to agree with RapidsMan. It would have been nice it they actually did a search and talked to the likes of Spencer, Fraser, or even Mariner. After Clavijo left anyone could have come into the dressing room and been greeted as a liberator. It looks like another rebuilding year for the Rapids.

  14. I want him to do well, but I wish the Rapids Front Office conducted an actual search.

    Instead they took the first available coach that was available.

    Oh well, I hope he can put together a new team next year with the amount of cap space that will become available.


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