When the draw for round four of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup threw the names of Nashville SC and the Colorado Rapids together (Wednesday, 6:30 PM MT), there were wry smiles aplenty as – despite the teams having never previously met – there is much history between the two.
Take Nashville head coach Gary Smith, for example. He will forever be remembered in the Centennial State for leading the Rapids to MLS Cup glory in 2010. The Englishman initially joined the Rapids as assistant to Fernando Clavijo in February 2008. Smith held the interim tag for the final 11 games of the 2008 season (5-4-2), before being named the sixth head coach in franchise history on November 11 of that year.
Smith was in charge for 105 regular season games, boasting a 39-31-35 record, before being replaced by Oscar Pareja in time for the 2012 season.
Two players in the Nashville side - goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Kosuke Kimura - were integral to the Rapids’ success in 2010. Both played in the final against FC Dallas.
In all, Pickens spent a little over five years with the Rapids, from 2009 until early into 2014. He made 116 regular season appearances for the club, which is the most by a goalkeeper in franchise history.
Kimura went one better, making 117 appearances for the Rapids, between 2007-2012. He was acquired by the Rapids on January 18, 2007 as a third round pick from the MLS Supplemental Draft, in a year in which names such as Omar Cummings and Nick LaBrocca had earlier been selected.
Pickens made his debut on March 21, 2009 in Smith’s first game as permanent head coach, a 2-1 loss at Chivas USA in the season opener. His last game was a 1-1 tie at Real Salt Lake on March 13, 2013. He suffered a broken arm just four minutes into the contest, and was replaced by Clint Irwin.
Kimura’s first game for the Rapids was at RSL, albeit Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 22, 2007. His final appearance would be a 1-0 defeat at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on June 16, 2012.
There is another player on the Nashville roster with a Rapids connection. Alan Winn, who scored the final goal in a 3-1 win over Penn FC on Saturday, was a first choice by the Rapids at this year’s MLS Superdraft, taken with the second pick of the second round. He spent the early part of preseason with Anthony Hudson’s squad, before joining Nashville in early February.
And sitting alongside Smith on the Nashville bench is David Proctor, a role he filled during the Rapids’ run to MLS Cup in 2010, while also working within the club’s academy.
No history? No problem. There will still be many familiar faces for fans to focus on in this fourth round contest.
Catch the game LIVE Wednesday, June 6 at ColoradoRapids.com/live. You can listen to full coverage of the Rapids' first foray into the 2018 Open Cup on Altitude AM950, from 6:00 PM MT.