I've said a lot of things about Colorado Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith, some good and some bad. My biggest complaint about him has always been that he has always been a decently skilled player but since coming to MLS from the Scottish Premier League, he has run very hot and cold. At the fairly old age of 30 and in his second MLS season I wasn't considering him as a player who we would see much marked improved from but judging by his performance during Saturday's game against the Portland Timbers, we may be seeing Jamie blossom back into the fantastic player that used to play back in the day for Celtic FC and perhaps even more.
It's all about running hot and cold and Jamie looked hotter than the hottest he had ever been against the Timbers and that is incredibly encouraging because if that is what he'll look like hot, we're pretty sure that his cold - if he reverts to it - will still look just fantastic.
The biggest knock against Jamie - by me anyway - has always been his defense. His shooting is rarely plentiful to begin with and we all know about his ability to provide assists but his defending on the side of the midfield has always been shoddy, leaving the far superior defensively Wells Thompson as the late game substitute for him during winning campaigns. On Saturday against an offense that wasn't quite full of slouches and some midfielders that had skill like Jack Jewsbury, Jamie was superb taking the ball away from people in their final third and keeping the ball away from the Timbers players in general. I don't know what the coaching staff did to him during the offseason but that was some play that we have never seen out of Jamie in his time as a Rapids winger.
I don't have to tell you how impressive that goal he scored was, obviously. If you haven't seen the replay, get on it right now because it's an early candidate not only for goal of the week but for Rapids goal of the year. Having him healthy for a full season this time rather than the 16 when he was available last year and without Colin Clark to compete for his role, Jamie may well pile up the most assists this side of Landon Donovan this season. We saw some brilliant balls off his foot last year that went off of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings to the net last year, not the least of which his assist in the MLS Cup Final that he snuck into a perfect position underneath a scrum of players that Casey found with his toe to get into the goal. Jamie is out to prove that his hot and cold play is of the past and if he can play even half as well as he did against Portland for the rest of the season, he may end the year with 5+ goals and 12+ assists. For a team built like Colorado those are numbers that would make Rapids fans drool.
Keeping the core together of the team that won the cup last year was a great move by Gary Smith because of expected improvements by players like Anthony Wallace, Marvell Wynne and Macoumba Kandji. The fact that we may be able to add Jamie Smith to that list is incredibly encouraging as the Rapids continue their race for a defense of their MLS Cup and perhaps, if the stars align, the Supporters Shield.