COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Rapids head coach Gary Smith and assistant Steve Guppy like to banter about obscure British gangster movies and exchange stories about trips to southern Spain when they were both footballers in the English leagues.
But beneath all the banter is an effective working relationship that played a large part in the crowning of the Colorado Rapids as 2010 MLS Cup champions.
Smith is quick to praise his longtime friend Guppy, as well as goalkeeping coach David Kramer, Academy director of coaching Brett Jacobs and fitness coach John Ireland.
“These guys have all given me a helluva lot of support and they have a wonderful work ethic,” he told MLssoccer.com. “I give them an awful lot of credit in the way they have supported me and what they have offered the players.”
Former England winger Guppy works extra hours on the practice field with the likes of Kosuke Kimura to improve attacking play. One-time Colorado stopper Kramer spends time with goalkeepers Matt Pickens, Ian Joyce, Steward Ceus and MLS pool goalie Chris Sharpe. Jacobs brings intensity to training drills, and Ireland ensures key players are fit enough to play in key games.
“They have created a terrific work environment,” Smith said.
Smith called his team's achievements this year nothing short of miraculous. The club resisted going out and landing a slew of expensive players, and therefore it relied heavily on work ethic and team solidarity.
Clearly, having the right combination of players is important, but the solidarity that comes from a tight-knit staff is equally important when dealing with limited budgets, Smith said.
Smith pointed out that Ireland is only employed part time but that his contributions have been invaluable. His detailed preparations, for example, helped Jamie Smith be fit for MLS Cup after the Scottish midfielder had been struggling with a calf injury that had forced him out of the Eastern Conference final.
The champions have now dispersed for the winter break, but there’s no rest for Smith. The coach will be traveling to the UK for two weeks this week to look at possible new players and build on some of his work relationships back home and throughout Europe.