Six points in two matches for a last place team is a feel good story in most football leagues, but in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference it puts you on the cusp of a playoff spot. What Gary Smith, the Rapids interim manager has done is remarkable since taking over a broken and battered team from former Coach Fernando Clavijo just over a month ago.
Stan Kroenke’s possible takeover attempt on Arsenal a few years back paid dividends for Kroenke’s MLS side, Colorado Rapids. As part of the agreement when Kroenke bought into Arsenal , a partnership was developed with the MLS team which includes the development of a youth academy at DSG Park, the home of the Denver outfit, as well as the continued ability for the Rapids to train at Ashburton Grove every preseason. The Gunners sent Smith over to DSG Park earlier this year to help establish the youth academy and further develop the working partnership between the two sides.
Smith’s Rapids has achieved three victories in four matches since he officially took over and now seem poised to make a strong run at the playoff qualification, sitting tied for the last spot. Smith has made three significant changes to the side: inserting Preston Burpo in goal over Senegal National Team netminder Bouna Counduil (who has not regained his previous stellar form since returning from the Cup of African Nations) , benching former MLS MVP and virtual DP Christian Gomez, and handing the captain’s armband to Mike Petke, a workmanlike player that can relate to the British style of play.
These moves seemed questionable at the time. However nobody can question the results and the sudden rival of Colorado’s playoff hopes. With all the success Gary Smith is having stateside, one must wonder when he returns to the Emirates if Arsene Wenger will give him a promotion?