Rapids, Smith part ways after rocky 2011 campaign

colorado rapids head coach gary smith

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Twelve months ago, the Colorado Rapids were on their way to the 2010 MLS Cup title. Now they’re on the hunt for a new head coach.

On Monday afternoon, the club announced it has parted ways with Gary Smith after declining to renew the Englishman's contract.

“After meeting with Gary, we decided it would be in the best interest of both parties to move in a different direction,” Rapids managing director Jeff 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.”

Smith started with the Rapids as an assistant in 2008 before being named interim head coach, replacing Fernando Clavijo with 11 games left in that season. He went on to earn the job on a permanent basis in November of that year.

In Smith’s three-and-a-half years at the helm, Colorado put together a regular-season record of 39-31-35, and made two appearances in the postseason.

Things didn't go quite as expected in 2011, however. The Rapids got off to a slow start, then lost star striker Conor Casey for the season with a torn Achilles in July. After holding the ship together for a bit, Smith's Rapids faced a long season that saw them finish 12-9-13, good for fifth place in the Western Conference standings, and were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League in the group stage.

After getting past Columbus in the wild card round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, they were ousted last week by Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Smith becomes the second head coach to leave his club this offseason, joining longtime New England coach Steve Nicol, who left the Revolution in October after nearly a decade in charge.

The Rapids indicated that they intend to begin the search for Smith’s replacement immediately.