A familiar face to Rapids fans is back in Colorado after six years of wandering the soccer world, as local club Colorado Rush announced the hiring of Gary Smith as their new Academy Director.
Smith had last served as head coach for the Atlanta Silverbacks in the NASL.
Smith was the head coach of the Rapids from 2008 to 2011. In 2010 he took a talented but lightly regarded Rapids squad all the way to MLS Cup, winning the trophy for the first and only time in franchise history. After a 12-13-9 (WTL) record in 2011, and despite earning a spot in MLS playoffs, Smith was sacked by then-General Manager Jeff Plush. It was widely reported that clashes between the front office staff of Plush, Tim Hinchey, and Paul Bravo over personnel decisions and the club’s direction were a major factor in decision not to renew Smith’s contract.
Burgundy Wave assessed the legacy of Smith thusly in a post from November 8, 2011, by former editor Chris White:
Gary has been a fairly mediocre manager since he signed on in late 2008. After all, his record is fairly middling (39-31-35) and the Rapids MLS Cup appearance that he orchestrated, while impressive, was built on luck just as much as it was skill. His flaws were almost all located in his managing style. He was seemingly far too focused on getting 'his guys' playing time over perhaps more skilled candidates.
As flawed as he could be in management, he was a legend at scouting and dealing with player management for the Rapids compared to previous coaches... (resulting in the) snagging guys like Andre Akpan and Eddie Ababio in the drafts and guys like Miguel Comminges up for depth purposes with the limited money he had available. Gary took a team that had almost nothing to it and built one of the best starting XI's in the league with an incredibly limited budget.
It looks that a position concerned primarily with identifying talented young soccer players within the Rush system and beyond might be exactly the right job for Smith.
Rush operate successful girls and boys soccer teams from the U3 to U18 levels as well as adult recreational teams. Rush’s Senior mens team have vied for a spot in the US Open Cup under the USSSA affiliation, but have narrowly missed qualifying, most recently getting pipped by Harpos FC of Boulder in October 2015. Recently, Rush joined the much larger UPSL league, which occupies a higher spot on the Open Cup ladder.
Since departing the Rapids, Smith coached English League One side Stevenage in 2012 and 2013, but after a bad run of form he was dispatched in March of that year. His final record with the club was 27-19-26. Smith was brought on at the beginning of 2015 to manage the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks. On the field, the team had a so-so year, missing out on both the Spring and Fall playoff berths. Off-the-field, the team searched fruitlessly for an owner before being contracted altogether by NASL in December of 2015.
The best of luck to Smith and Colorado Rush as they embark on this new soccer journey together.