COLUMBUS OH - NOVEMBER 6: Jamie Smith doing things on the field. Frankie Hejduk still in Columbus colors... That pretty much sums it up. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Suffice to say, Jamie Smith is a fan favorite. Every other comment on the Rapids' facebook page is "Why isn't Jamie Smith starting? Or some variation thereupon. There's certain things you can and cannot say about certain players on the Rapids, and one of those sacred cows is Jamie Smith. People can rip on Conor Casey. People can rip on Omar Cummings. Even Pablo Mastroeni has been ripped on. But there are some guys you just don't touch. Jamie Smith is looked at as almost like a talisman on the team. Heck, even I like him.
It seems like people are calling for Jamie Smith to come and save the Rapids, and if there's any one player who can change a season--it's Jamie. Jamie Smith has the most talent, grit, heart, experience, class... you name it, on the Rapids, and that he should be starting (if not Captaining the squad) every game.
He's also got to bear the weight of fond memories of 2010, which are projected on Jamie Smith while the animosity for the lack of results is shifted on the shoulders of newcomers like Jaime Castrillon and the young Martin Rivero, and thence to Oscar Pareja and all the way up to Paul Bravo and Tim Hinchey. Jamie, whether deserved or not and whether or not he even likes it, carries both the hopes and the fond memories of many Rapids fans.
We haven't seen Jamie on the field much this season though.
It's true, Jamie Smith hasn't done much for the Rapids first team on the field lately. He's played a few minutes, finished a gimmie goal (which is great because how many times have we NOT finished a gimmie goal this year?), had a bit of a stinker in Seattle and then went back to the bench.
What if I told you that Jaime Castrillon has already played more minutes than Jamie Smith in either of his good years with the club? What if I told you that Martin Rivero has also on track to out-perform the Scotsman in his first year in MLS?
You'd probably say that I'm biased, and maybe that's true. But if anything I am biased FOR Jamie Smith (as I am a fan of the player) than anything else. As a fan, I can like Jamie all I want, but as a blogger, I have to try to look at things differently. And that involves looking at a player's numbers.
I think it's great that people attribute a lot of intangibles to the player. "Grit" "Heart" "Experience" are all good things to have, to be sure. I frequently call Jamie "wily" and "clever". But at the end of the day if you're not getting your team to perform better in games, then all the intangibles in the world don't mean much. You've got to put up numbers. Here's Jamie's numbers for his career with the Rapids.
Career Statistics (Regular Season)
Year Club GP GS G MIN A SHT SOG FC OFF Y R 2012 Colorado Rapids 7 1 1 176 0 3 2 1 0 0 0 2011 Colorado Rapids 20 18 3 1519 4 31 16 12 0 0 0 2010 Colorado Rapids 22 16 1 1357 8 23 10 19 0 3 0 2009 Colorado Rapids 4 3 0 216 1 4 1 2 0 0 0 Career Totals 53 38 5 3268 13 61 29 34 0 3 0
Jamie's best year health-wise was 2011, you can see that right up there. His best year production-wise kind of seems a toss up for me because he had a pretty good 2011 but also a good 2010 as far as assists go. He started more games and played the most minutes in a single regular season with Colorado that he's ever played in 2011. In fact, you'll see that Jamie's first year with the Rapids, he only played 216 minutes.
Jamie Smith has been out with injury a lot. That's a fairly uncontroversial statement. In this, I think it's a safer bet to not make him a starter. Some fans disagree. But there's a huge risk that goes along with playing a guy who is prone to these injuries (knee injuries can be particularly troublesome). The more he plays, the more likely it becomes that he will re-injure himself, and who knows, the next injury could be his last as a professional footballer. That's all scary stuff, career wise, and I don't think it's necessarily ethical or smart soccer to run Jamie into the ground trying to salvage the season.
I'd rather see Jamie on the bench and possibly getting a few minutes here and there than sitting in the stands because his career ended at 31 after another ACL tear because we ran him ragged. I think Jamie's still got a few good years left, but the Rapids need to be careful with him or we won't get those years. We will at most get a few more minutes and then have him not even able to come on and make a difference when needed. It's frustrating, but that appears to be the reality of it.
Besides, as far as his production, the most shots he ever took was in 2011, and he also got his highest tally of goals. He also notched 4 assists. But his best year production wise was 2010, with 8 assists. He didn't lead the team in assists that year, that honor went to Omar Cummings. I don't think the Rapids are really hurting for his absence as much as they are hurting from the absence of Pablo Mastroeni. As far as how they are doing without him? I'll show you some stats from Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero.
Now, let's look at Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero. First Jaime:
Career Statistics (Regular Season)
Not much doing with direct assists, but Jaime is on track to score more goals in one season than Smith did in 4. He's also racked up more fouls than Jamie Smith ever did either. The guy likes to mix it up in the middle. He's also gotten more red cards than Smith. That being said, neither Smith nor Castrillon are looked at as "dirty players". Even in the days when the Rapids were frequently accused of being "thugs", Jamie Smith was not usually noted in that category.
And now Martin:
Career Statistics (Regular Season)
Martin is on track to rack up as many assists in his first season as Jamie Smith did in his career. 5 more and he'll have the Scot tied. This production rate is fantastic, and he's not afraid to shoot the ball either. 45 shots. That's ridiculous. His conversion rate is terrible, currently. 45 shots, 13 on goal, and 1 goal. Not great. But the kid is not afraid to let loose.
So who do you pick on gameday?
From a totally unbiased perspective, I'd go with Jaime and Martin if they are ready to go. I would not pick Jamie Smith. Too many risks for possibly less of a return. And if I'm Pareja, what I'm focused on is the conversion rate of shots go goals and stepping up pressure in the middle of the field (the Hendry Thomas signing is a good example).
The fact is, Jamie Smith is one of the players on the Rapids who needs to step up if the team is to have success next season. Whether as a starter (which I don't think, given his injury history, is a good idea), or as a guy coming off the bench to put in a few minutes here and there. He's not a savior. His lack of playing time isn't the reason the Rapids season has been sunk anymore than Martin Rivero's rise has been the cause of that.
In the end, I think that this is a case of wishful projection. We don't know what Jamie could have done this season as a starter, or guys like Kamani Hill. You know "What if Hill had been in such and such a game and not Edu?" sort of stuff. And in the end, that's what happens. That's what we're entitled to do as fans. We get the chance to say "what if..."
But in the end, I don't think Jamie Smith would have been the guy to change the season, and if he had been played as much as some suggested, I think he'd most likely be out with injury again--which I don't think anyone wants to see. Again, I'd rather see Jamie Smith on the bench or at least available for selection than once again on the season-ending injury list.