Rapids hoping to ink new coach by start of 2012

The Colorado Rapids are inching closer to finding a new head coach to replace deposed former boss Gary Smith, and are hopeful they find their man before the dawn of 2012.

Rapids technical director Paul Bravo told MLSsoccer.com that the club has brought four candidates to Denver thus far and had other conversations over the phone in search of Smith’s replacement.

“We feel that we need to find a person who has a working knowledge of league rules, someone who understands the draft process and also the link between the business and playing side,” Bravo told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “It should be before the first of the year. We have to find the best fit for the club.”

One of the names Bravo ruled out as a candidate is former player Claudio López, who came off the bench during the club’s run to the 2010 MLS Cup. He also scored in the penalty shootout during the Eastern Conference semifinal win against Columbus.

But the Rapids have identified South and Latin America as a priority to recruit players and Bravo said López, who was waived by the club after the 2010 season, and he have had conversations about a potential role for the former World Cup star.

“Not so much on the coaching side but we would like to use him as a resource,” Bravo said. “He is living in Córdoba [Argentina] and he has the ability to open doors for us, not only in Argentina but in all of Latin America.”

López could also play a major role with the Rapids Academy players.

“He is a worldwide name and we would like nothing more than to have him involved with the club,” Bravo said. “We are still trying to feel around and are keeping an open line of communication with him.”