Guess Who's Back?
Nashville SC has signed it's first and, to this point, only head coach to a contract extension through 2023. Gary Smith was given the reins of the USL Championship club in its expansion season and took them to the playoffs that year. He then led them back the next year as the number two seed.
When the club moved up into MLS, there was a lot of speculation among the fans as to who would be the gaffer, and there was some groaning when Smith was chosen again; however, no one was complaining when he brought another expansion team into the playoffs in year one.
People forget that Gary Smith had MLS experience before Nashville. He led the Colorado Rapids to an MLS Cup victory in 2010 with very much the same style of play and team formation as he uses in Music City. Doubters said it wouldn't work a decade ago, and he proved them wrong. More doubters said he couldn't win in this more modern, fast-paced league, and he proved them wrong again.
“In a coach you always seek that ability to manage players individually and at the same time bring them together as a team on the pitch to get results. Gary has shown his ability to do that effectively and successfully, and in the toughest of years," said CEO Ian Ayre. "We are delighted that he will continue to manage our team as we continue this MLS journey.”
“Gary’s outstanding leadership on the field drove our group to one of the most outstanding expansion seasons in Major League Soccer history," stated General Manager Mike Jacobs, "and we are so proud and delighted to honor and recognize him with a contract extension.”
Smith, 52, of Harlow, Essex in England, had a shortened playing career in England. He retired in 1997 at the age of 27 due to injuries. He became a talent scout in America and was chosen by Rapids to be their interim coach before being made permanent in 2008. He led them to the club's first trophy in 2010. After he left in 2011, he went to coach Stevenage in the English League 2 and took them to promotion playoffs in his first year. The following year saw him back in the states coaching NASL side Atlanta Silverbacks from 2014-2016 before taking the reins at expansion Nashville SC in 2017.
He has a history of taking teams to the postseason. He brings a workmanlike attitude to the training ground, and his players take that on themselves. Smith's players never give up and fight hard for their fans. In fact, Smith has one of the best home winning records among active MLS coaches, and he has never lost more than two home matches in a season.
2020 was perhaps his biggest challenge as a coach. What will Smith do in 2021? Can he repeat his success of last season? Will the Boys in Gold surpass it? Follow me on Twitter @ComingUpGolden and Instagram @Everythingscomingupgolden to find out. For all your MLS needs, stay tuned to @MLSNowpodcast.