[MLS] Less than a year after he led the Colorado Rapids to their first MLS championship, Englishman Gary Smith is out as
head coach. Management announced on Monday that it will not renew Smith's contract, making his departure the second quickest forced exit of an MLS Cup champion coach in league history.
Steve Sampson, who led the Los Angeles Galaxy to its last MLS championship in 2005, was fired on June 6, 2006.
(Sigi Schmid quit as Columbus Crew after its MLS Cup 2008 title to become the Seattle Sounders head coach. Frank Yallop quit a year after leading the San Jose Earthquakes to their second league title in 2004 to become Canada's national team coach.)
Smith had a very public dispute with technical director Paul Bravo with whom he clashed over personnel matters as negotiations with Rapids managing director Jeff Plush on a new contract dragged on.
Smith, who joined the Colorado Rapids as an assistant coach in early 2008 before taking over as interim head coach from Fernando Clavijo for the final 11 matches of that season, told the Denver Post, "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. I feel as though I've been very disrespected in all of this."
He added that his recent remarks about his problems with Bravo stemmed from his frustration that the renewal of his contract was taking so long.
“After meeting with Gary, we decided it would be in the best interest of both parties to move in a different direction,” Plush said in a statement. “We’d like to thank Gary for his many contributions to the Colorado Rapids organization. He was instrumental in the Rapids winning our first-ever MLS Cup last year, and we wish him nothing but the best as he explores new opportunities.”
After stints as an assistant at several small English clubs Smith was working as a scout for Arsenal -- now owned by Rapids owner Stan Kroenke -- when he came to Colorado in 2008.
In his three-plus seasons in the role of head coach, Smith had a regular-season record of 39-31-35. In 2011, the Rapids went 12-9-13 and reached the quarterfinals of the MLS playoffs despite being ravaged by injuries.
They were eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League on the final day of the group stage. Earlier in the competition, with the Rapids struggling in MLS and Concacaf, Smith chose not to fly with the team to an away game in El Salvador. The move drew criticism from Schmid, whose Sounders were competing in another Concacaf group.