COMMERCE CITY CO (ColoradoRapids.com) - Rapids fans got the chance to participate in an exclusive online chat with newly-appointed Colorado Rapids Head Coach Gary Smith on Monday November 19.
Smith took an hour to chat with fans about everything from his outlook on the Rapids' 2009 season to his prospective staff to what he misses about English food.
Here below is the full transcript of questions and Smith's answers as fans got to ask the Rapids' new coach the questions they wanted to hear answers to as the club starts preparations to get ready for their 14th MLS season!
Thanks to all fans who participated check back to ColoradoRapids.com for future online chats!
Colorado Rapids Gary Smith Online Chat Transcript Nov. 17 2008:
Gonzalo from Lisbon: The Colorado Rapids have had structural problems in the consistency of the defense. What are your thoughts about it?
Gary Smith: "Well I think with any team consistency can be an issue certainly when you are trying to give them new information. Coming from the position we were in in the early part of the season I think players took a little while to take things on board.
"It’s a team effort when all is said and done. When you talk about defense you’re not just talking about a position a goalkeeper or an individual. I certainly think the team as a whole showed more consistency over the last 10 or 11 games except for a two game blip on a couple of occasions. When we look at those two results the individuals that were missing played a key part in the result.
"We will continue to work hard and obviously the health of the players will be an important part in that but certainly as we move on I think that as players become a little bit more accustomed to each other and start to play that will have a big bearing on that."
Jonathan from Aurora Colorad How will you try to incorporate Christian Gomez next season? He seems to have too much talent to be left on the bench.
Gary Smith: "Christian I think fell foul of circumstances and those circumstances were a team that was on the slide. We wanted to add a bit more resilience to the team and that’s certainly no slight on Christian because he is an extremely talented player.
"As we look toward next season what I do hope is that we have a good preseason where Christian can be integrated into a formation that he is more comfortable with. Certainly we’ll have more time to talk to Christian about his role within our setup and he will be able to be as effective as he was in previous seasons.
"Preseason will definitely be the most important time for the team and for Christian personally and hopefully we can get the most out of him during that spell."
Richard from Thornton Colorad I’ve been a Rapids season ticket holder for seven years now. I love the team despite their history of inconsistent play and certain player decisions. Can you tell me what I can expect to see differently from your Rapids club next year?
Gary Smith: "Well I would like to think that after a good preseason we will have a team that will wholeheartedly give 110% on every occasion that they walk onto the pitch. We will be a side that is looking to play great football we will be a side that tries to make life difficult for their opponents and most importantly a side that plays with spirit and determination and we will try to couple that with good techniques and good quality. I am hoping that we will find success this year more than anything else."
Jason from Denver Colorad There is no reason why the Rapids have not made it to the playoffs these last two years having such a talented group. Are you going to be able to get them there this year?
Gary Smith: "I certainly hope so that’s the simple answer. I do believe that we have a side right now that is capable of challenging for the playoffs. I think that we proved that by taking the season to the last minute of the last game even through a spell that was nine or ten games without a win in the middle of the season.
"Certainly we have a group that is competitive enough to make the playoffs; I think the question is are we good enough to win the MLS Cup? I think two or three additions to the group that we already have will take us in the right direction to challenge for the MLS Cup and not just make the playoffs."
Jorge from Pueblo Colorad Congrats on your new appointment! Who is going to be on your staff?
Gary Smith: "There certainly has been a huge effort from staff from within the club who have stepped up and taken extra responsibility to help us through the season and I’d hope that some of those people can be rewarded. There is going to be an opportunity I believe to have a full time goalkeeper coach which I think is a must given the young individuals that we have as goalkeepers.
"I have one or two coaches that I am very keen on talking to and possibly interviewing for an assistant’s role. I know that there have been a few applicants for the post and I’m sure that very soon we will come to a conclusion and get the staff together as soon as possible toward the end of this year."
Jeffrey from Denver Colorad Will the Rapids seriously consider using the US Open Cup tournament as an easier entry into CONCACAF Champions League?
Gary Smith: "I’m a firm believer that if there is any silverware to play for we will do everything in our power to win it. The Open Cup is a cup I believe is very much worth winning and we will be doing everything in our power to make sure that we add some silverware to our trophy cabinet.
"As for an opportunity to get into the CONCACAF Champions League yes we will be working hard to get there whether it’s by our success in the Open Cup by winning the Supporters Shield or by the best way for us to get in which would be by winning the MLS Cup."
Jeffrey from Denver Colorad How much do you foresee the roster changing for 2009?
Gary Smith: "Not enormously. There are one or two areas that I think we need to strengthen. I think the squad is strong talented and youthful. We have a nice balance of experience.
"Re-signing Pablo Mastroeni was a very important first step for this club to bring back a player of his leadership and experience. So probably in two or three areas we will try to add players but in the main I think the squad has enough talent and ability to challenge for the MLS Cup."
Timothy from Cambridge Ontari If you were not able to coach your team for any reason and had to pick another MLS coach to take your place who would you choose and why?
Gary Smith: "That’s a tough question hopefully I never have to replace myself! But over the course of the season and looking from afar last season I have been able to see qualities in other teams’ coaching staffs.
"I think Sigi Schmidt has done a fantastic job at Columbus and he would certainly be in the top three individuals I rate the highest. I think Dominic Kinnear has done a wonderful job with Houston and I actually am very impressed with the way they play and some of the individuals that they’ve got.
"And when you look at the job that Jason Kreis as a young manager has done at Salt Lake only being there a year and a half or so and taking over from being a player he has done a great job and from the interaction that I have had with Jason he seems like a very good person as well. So there you have it."
Todd from Commerce City Colorad What specific changes were needed after you took over as Interim Coach? What sparked the turnaround in the Rapids’ play?
Gary Smith: "I think the team was lacking in confidence when I took over as Interim Coach. We were coming off two losses at home and the first thing I tried to do was build some confidence in the team and build a belief in the players that they were capable of winning games and certainly turning around a season.
"I think that there were some young players that were not getting the opportunities that they deserved and their energy and enthusiasm that we were able to bring out a bit certainly was a catalyst for some of the things that took us to a fight to the finish at the end of the season."
Lez from Staten Island NY: What style of play can we expect from the Rapids next year?
Gary Smith: "I would like to think it would be a fast and attacking style of play. I think we certainly have the players to do that. Certainly at home we need to make more use of the big pitch the altitude and great home support.
"I know that fans want to get behind teams that are aggressive and who really bring it to their opponent. Certainly that will be one of the focuses of the team during the preseason. We want to be in the position of making 2009 an exciting season with a youthful and energetic side."
Bob from Whitby Ontari What is the biggest change you’re going to bring to the club?
Gary Smith: "Good dress sense. Just kidding. Seriously I hope one of the things that I can bring to the club is a competitive nature across the board and an attitude to the players’ daily work that is as professional as possible.
"Let me just expand on that….having a group in an environment where the players enjoy themselves and want to be around the grounds and the training field as much as possible combined with a very strong work ethic will hopefully be very fruitful for our club."
Ron J. from Jacksonville Florida: What do you recommend for a young man who wants to pursue a career in coaching to do as a first step?
Gary Smith: "Well certainly coaching courses. Getting all the coaching badges needed to get yourself on the first rung of the ladder would be necessary. Also I would suggest taking any given opportunity to observe coaches at a good level in order to gain ideas and experience in the way that coaches conduct themselves and to study the different styles of coaching.
"Following that I’d recommend gaining as many practical hours as possible with groups of players to establish your own style to get through those difficult periods. It doesn’t always go well and you do make mistakes it’s not always rosy but as they say practice makes perfect and it’s just a matter of working as hard as possible."
Bill from Denver Colorad Who is going to be making the player personnel decisions (you or the front office or both)? If both what is the nature of that relationship?
Gary Smith: "I will be making all player personnel decisions based on the style of play I want our team to have and will oversee the recruitment of players to improve our group where I think our needs are. Certainly there will be some inclusion and dialogue with the front office in terms of contracts and the legalities of players at other clubs which at this moment I will still need some guidance on but who the actual players are that come in to the club will be up to me."
Mark from Erie Colorad As a fellow Englishman living here for two years I really miss decent bacon brown sauce fresh fish mushy peas and spotted dick. How are you coping in the US without the Cockney delights such as pie and mash and jellied eels?
Gary Smith: "Well and this is going to be quite sad I have never had pie and mash and I once tried jellied eels and they certainly are not for me. Strangely enough I miss baked beans. I also do miss a good English sausage. The HP sauce will be first port of call when I go home over the New Year period. I’m sure there are some other things that I do miss. Good cheese is hard to come by nice cheddar and such.
"But mostly I enjoy the food here in Denver. There are some wonderful places to eat. The service you get at restaurants and the way the people look after you is great and different than in the UK. Since I have been here there are no complaints!"
Mark from Erie Colorad What are your top three priorities for next season?
Gary Smith: "Number one to win the MLS Cup. Number two in doing that to play in a style and fashion that fits this club. Number three for the whole staff within the club for the players and for the fans to have an enjoyable and exciting season."
That’s all the time we have set aside today. Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you our fans. Sorry we weren't able to get to all the questions that were sent in but thanks to everyone for participating.
Gary Smith: "Thanks to the fans for allowing me this opportunity to speak with them directly. I hope to see you all out this Wednesday night to watch our own lads Conor Casey Pablo Mastroeni and Cory Gibbs play for the US National Team in their World Cup qualifying match vs. Guatemala at our home ground. See you there. Cheers."