Colorado Rapids head coach Gary Smith spent time on Tuesday about 20 miles north of London at Arsenal FC’s training facility. But he's not there scouting the Gunners’ talent; rather, because his contacts at the club may have a tip or two for him as the MLS champions head into 2011.
“It’s always just a little bit more intense over here in the football business,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “Things get thrown up in these normal meetings – names you weren’t necessarily aware of or you didn’t know were available.”
Smith may or may not return from his native England with names for the Rapids to sign, but he has scheduled meetings with several player agents this week, including one fellow countryman formerly of the English Championship and now plying his trade in Greece.
According to eurorivals.net, only two English players are listed as currently playing in the top Greek division. Center forward Nathan Ellington and defender Jordan Stewart are currently with Skoda Xanthi. Stewart most recently played for Championship side Sheffield United, while Ellington is currently on loan from Watford FC.
Smith has said in recent weeks that he is on the lookout for both a central defender to back up Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne, as well as a forward, particularly with Macoumba Kandji sidelined long-term with an ACL tear sustained at MLS Cup.
Though the players would fit Colorado’s needs, Smith said that he will be challenged to provide the players with the right financial incentive. Ellington was the record signing for Watford when he signed for the club in 2007 on a four-year deal for $5 million.
And now that two seasons of hard work scouting with Rapids assistant Steve Guppy have paid off with an MLS title, Smith will not have to go to such great lengths this offseason.
“Steve will take in a few games down there in Southampton but, this time around, we don’t want to cover as much ground as we have in the last two years,” he said. “We’re not traveling the country searching for individuals.”