Nashville SC will undergo plenty of changes upon its move from USL to MLS, but one constant will be its coach.
Gary Smith, who won MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids in 2010 and is in his second season as Nashville's coach in U.S. Soccer's second tier, will move with the club to MLS next season. Nashville SC made the formal announcement Wednesday after ESPNFC first reported the decision on Tuesday.
A former Arsenal and Fulham youth product, the 48-year-old Smith has bounced around since his last go-around in MLS. He coached Stevenage in his native England before returning to the U.S. to coach the Atlanta Silverbacks in NASL, and he took over at Nashville for its inaugural season in USL.
The pieces are beginning to fall into place for Nashville, which will start in MLS in 2020 along with Inter Miami CF and play temporarily at Nissan Stadium while its soccer-specific stadium is built. It recently unveiled its MLS branding and crest and has signed two players to MLS deals, former Chivas forward Daniel Rios and reigning USL golden boot winner Cameron Lancaster. Its CEO, ex-Liverpool director and CEO Ian Ayre, and general manager, Mike Jacobs, have been in place for some time and will follow the club to MLS. Now there's a head coach to join them.
"Selecting the right coach is one of the most important tasks at any club,” Ayre said. “As we set out to build our MLS team and Mike and I conducted our search throughout the game for a head coach, we always kept coming back to Gary as the first and best candidate for the job.
“We need someone who understands the nuances of the U.S. game, someone that has experience of working with domestic and international players, someone with a history of developing young talent, someone who believed in our vision for the club and most importantly someone who is a winner. Gary fits that bill perfectly. Alongside those key attributes, the value of the continuity of having Gary already at Nashville SC and working with our team for the 2019 USL season make for a fantastic outcome.”
Bringing a coach from USL to MLS isn't unprecedented. FC Cincinnati did the same for its inaugural season, retaining Alan Koch for the 2019 move. Orlando City did the same when transitioning from USL to MLS in 2015, holding onto Adrian Heath.