This time last year Colorado Rapids head coach Gary Smith was preparing his team for the final of the MLS Cup against FC Dallas. But just one year later, he is out of a job.
The Rapids were one of the original franchises in MLS when the league began play in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Colorado was able to celebrate its first MLS Cup title, which came under the guidance of Smith.
An accomplishment like that normally brings with it a certain amount of job security, but that is not the case with Smith and the Rapids.
On the surface, it seems a bit surprising that the two sides would part ways after a season that saw the club match its regular season win total from last year.
Sure the Rapids were bounced in the conference semifinals by Sporting Kansas City, but Smith did a great job in getting the team that far considering the rash of injuries his club endured, including the loss of striker Conor Casey for more than half the season.
But the decision not to renew Smith’s contract appears to be more about things taking place off the field than about the results on it.
Smith has voiced his displeasure with the financial resources he has been given, and it has come to light that he does not get along particularly well with managing director Jeff Plush or technical director Paul Bravo.
“I’ve worked tirelessly under extreme duress at the club, I’ve gotten little to no help from Paul or from Jeff, and still managed to put a team together that won a championship and got in the playoffs this year,” Smith told the Denver Post. “I feel as though I’ve been very disrespected in all of this.”
It’s hard to argue with what Smith has produced on the field since taking over for former boss Fernando Clavijo, including a 39-31-35 mark in the regular season as well as back-to-back playoff appearances.
So it is a shame that squabbling with the front office, not a lack of results, is the reason why what Smith has helped to build in his three-plus seasons in Commerce City has now come to an end.
When explaining the reason for his decision, Plush cited the fact that Smith went public with his criticisms of the organization, which illustrated that the two sides weren’t on the same page in terms of the direction of the team.
Going public probably wasn’t a great idea by Smith in hindsight, but according to the former coach, it took the Rapids six months following their championship for the team to approach Smith about a new contract.
For a coach that just won a championship it seems a bit odd that he would go into the following season on the last year of his deal. But maybe it’s possible that the front office already had an idea that things weren’t headed in a great direction.
“We’re a good team, we’ve got players under contract, it’s a great soccer facility in one of the loveliest markets in North America to live in,” Plush said. “So there’ll be no lack of candidates who will be interested in this opportunity.”
A lack of candidates will certainly not be a problem considering the strong foundation that Smith has helped to build.
The real question is whether or not the results will follow.