Englishman who led Rapids to glory last year has fallen out with club hierarchy and could be set for a move back across the Atlantic or to a rival in the United States
By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Colorado Rapids manager Gary Smith, the Englishman who won the MLS Cup last season with the lowest budget of the 18 franchises, is poised to reject a new contract offer from the club, Goal.com has learned.
Smith has an uneasy relationship with club director Paul Bravo and is likely to tell the Denver-based club he will leave after their play-off exit was confirmed by an Eastern Conference semi-final defeat to Kansas City on Wednesday.
This will alert a number of MLS and lower league English clubs, with New England Revolution, who parted company with Steve Nicol last week, and managerless Portsmouth among the clubs monitoring the situations of Smith and his No2 Steve Guppy.
Big-spending New York Red Bulls are also believed to have been impressed by the job done by Smith and the future of their own manager, Swede Hans Backe, could come under the microscope after their MLS Cup hopes ended with a defeat to David Beckham’s LA Galaxy on Thursday night.
Smith, whose current contract expires on December 31, has agreed terms on a new Rapids deal but has stopped short of signing it because of what he has termed a “relationship issue” with former USA international and ex-Rapids player Bravo.
The 43-year-old hinted at major problems behind the scenes when he said last month: “We need to be able to come to terms with what both of us are at the club or we need to move on. One of us does, anyway.”
The pair have barely been on speaking terms during the current MLS season and the club chaplain was brought in to mediate on a recent meeting.
Smith has worked wonders at Rapids after taking over initially as caretaker manager in 2008 in what was his first managerial post following a decade spent working his way up the coaching ladder.
After missing the play-offs on goal difference in 2009, Rapids won the MLS Cup, the first trophy in the club’s history, last year on a recruitment budget that was 50 per cent less than the next lowest in the league.
Rapids reached the play-offs again this year but, with their thin squad decimated by injuries, they were defeated 2-0 in both legs of the Eastern Conference semi-final against Sporting KC.