Jamie Smith will always have a special place in Rapids history
For rabid Rapids fans, the names of the starting XI who took to BMO Field on November 21, 2010 will simply slide off the tongue. Their place in club history assured after they combined to clinch a first-ever MLS Cup for the franchise, defeating FC Dallas 2-1.
Of the starters, two have now hung up their boots and moved into coaching. One, Pablo Mastroeni, is of course head coach of the Colorado Rapids. The other, Jamie Smith, is now development academy coach with the club.
Mastroeni was recently inducted into the Rapids' Gallery of Honor following more than decade of loyal service. Smith, meanwhile, will be recognized ahead of the LA Galaxy game (TICKETS) on August 20, having played a key role during a significant time in the club's history.
"The gesture from the club, I kind of get choked up just thinking about it, to be honest," admits Smith. "To have people here, honoring me, I wasn't expecting it.
"It was a privilege and an honor to play for this club; to be a part of this organization - to still be a part of the organization - and so for them to welcome me onto the field, with my wife, my kids and family and friends, it's an honor for me to do it."
Smith was born in Alexandria, a small town near the west coast of Scotland, less than 30 miles from the city of Glasgow. Surrounded by soccer-loving family, and in particular fans of Celtic, it was no surprise that the young Smith inherited the same passion for the sport.
"As a little kid, growing up in Scotland, everyone played (soccer)," he said. "From a young age I just loved playing, and that's what I wanted to do, from when I was just a youngster."
That love for the game would carry him on to a professional playing career which would last 16 years, see him play for his country and also for his nation's biggest club, Celtic. As a fan of Celtic, it was a dream come true for Smith when he joined the Glasgow giant's youth academy, eventually cracking the first team and making his debut in August 1999 in the second leg of a UEFA Cup qualifying round match against Cwmbran. Celtic won 4-0 (to triumph 10-0 on aggregate), with the teenage Smith among the scorers.
He was then immediately loaned to Scottish first division club Livingston, where he made a handful of appearances, before rejoining Celtic.
"Being at Celtic, what a fantastic team we had, with amazing players," Smith said. "The experience I gained from that was excellent, and I definitely would liked to have played more minutes in the first team but - again - we had such a strong squad, with so many top-class players, that it was difficult to find consistency with minutes on the field."
It was during his time at Celtic that Smith earned international recognition, making two substitute appearances for Scotland, then under German coach Berti Vogts, against Ireland and Austria.
Limited first-team opportunities led Smith overseas, joining Dutch side ADO Den Haag at the start of 2004-2005 season (pictured above). Within a year, he was back in the Scottish Premier League at Aberdeen, and his form again caught the eye of the national team. Though called into the Scotland squad, Smith would not add to his two senior caps.
After four years at Aberdeen, now 28-year-old Smith would be on his travels again, only this time even further afield. He left Scotland for a second time, and headed to the Colorado Rapids and MLS.
He would arrive at the end of July, 2009 and make his Rapids debut as a 71st minute substitute for Colin Clark in a 1-0 home loss to Columbus Crew on August 1 of that year.
Oh, and for the record, that starting XI in 2010 was: Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Kosuke Kimura, Anthony Wallace, Jamie Smith, Brian Mullan, Pablo Mastroeni (c), Jeff Larentowicz, Omar Cummings, Conor Casey.
- Part 2: the Colorado Rapids' years, and 'my career highlight', to follow.