Nashville SC, head coach Gary Smith agree to contract extension

Gary Smith claps - Nashville SC

Nashville SC and head coach Gary Smith have agreed to a contract extension, the club announced Monday.

Smith helped guide Nashville to a strong inaugural MLS season in 2020. The club finished seventh in the Eastern Conference then beat fellow expansion side Inter Miami 3-0 in the play-in round of the playoffs, before going on the road and upsetting Toronto FC after extra time. They fell to eventual MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference semifinal. In addition to the normal difficulties that come with an expansion season, Smith and the club had to grapple with the global pandemic and a suspension in play after two games in the league.

“Given his achievements since being appointed as Nashville SC’s first ever MLS head coach, for me deciding to extend Gary’s contract was an easy and obvious decision," Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said in a club statement. "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. We are delighted that he will continue to manage our team as we continue this MLS journey.”

Nashville set a league-record for best defense in an expansion season, conceding just 22 goals in 23 games. Center back Walker Zimmerman was named MLS Defender of the Year in the process.

"Gary’s outstanding leadership on the field drove our group to one of the most outstanding expansion seasons in Major League Soccer history, and we are so proud and delighted to honor and recognize him with a contract extension," GM Mike Jacobs said.

Smith was named Nashville's first head coach in ahead of their first season in the USL Championship in 2018. After leading the club to the playoffs in back to back seasons, he was named head coach as they made the jump from USL to MLS. Last season marked Smith's return to the league, having been manager of the Colorado Rapids from 2008-11, winning MLS Cup during his time with the club. He's also been the head coach of Stevenage and the Atlanta Silverbacks before joining Nashville.

“I am very proud and honored to extend my time here in Nashville," Smith said. "To be part of the development and growth of Nashville SC has been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling periods in my coaching career and I look forward to many great times ahead.”

Earlier this winter, Jacobs also signed a contract extension, keeping the club's leadership in tact for the foreseeable future. The club have added the likes of Rodrigo Pineiro, CJ Sapong, Dylan Nealis and more as they hope to build in year two.