Nashville SC part ways with Gary Smith

Gary Smith - Nashville SC

Nashville SC have parted ways with head coach Gary Smith, the club announced Thursday.

Smith was Nashville's only head coach since they joined MLS in 2020, leading them to four straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 2023 Leagues Cup final. He exits with Nashville sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference (14 points; 3W-4L-5D).

Rumba Munthali will lead the club on an interim basis while a head coach search unfolds. Munthali has served as a player development coach for Nashville.

Additionally, assistant coach Steve Guppy departs Nashville as part of the change.

Smith’s tenure

Smith initially led Nashville for two seasons (2018-19) in the USL Championship, transitioning to MLS during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Their best MLS season under the English manager came in 2021, earning 54 points (12W-4L-18D).

Smith’s teams forged a defense-first reputation, often leaning on US men’s national team center back Walker Zimmerman. The veteran is a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and five-time MLS Best XI selection.

But Nashville also carry an attacking spark, highlighted by Hany Mukhtar earning 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors. The German forward has 60 goals and 42 assists in 123 matches, directly contributing to well over half of Nashville’s goals.

As brilliant as Mukhtar’s been, Nashville arguably grew over-reliant on him. And they’ve had a revolving door of DP strikers, with Sam Surridge occupying the No. 9 spot after previous runs with Jhonder Cádiz and Aké Loba.

Smith, who previously led the Colorado Rapids to an MLS Cup 2010 title, was also known for trusting veteran players.

What’s next?

A fifth-straight playoff trip is entirely realistic for Nashville, who have 22 regular-season games remaining this year. They’ll look to keep raising the standard around GEODIS Park, carrying Zimmerman, Mukhtar and Surridge as DPs.

This is the MLS season's first coaching change, coincidentally occurring after Nashville beat Toronto FC, 2-0, in Matchday 14 action.