Stan Kroenke’s possible takeover attempt on Arsenal a few years back has paid dividends for Kroenke’s MLS side, Colorado Rapids. As part of the agreement when Kroenke bought into Arsenal, a partnership was developed with the MLS team which includes the development of a youth academy at DSG Park, the home of the Denver outfit, as well as the continued ability for the Rapids to train at Ashburton Grove every preseason.
Now with the Rapids squad imploding, Gary Smith, an Arsenal employee sent to Colorado simply to set up the youth academy has been thrust into the role as Head Coach of the MLS side following the somewhat bizarre departure of Fernando Clavijo, former US National Team defender and longtime MLS manager. Smith’s Rapids has achieved two victories in three matches since he took over and now seem poised to make a run at the playoffs. Smith made two significant changes to the side: inserting Preston Burpo in goal over Senegal National Team netminder Bouna Counduil (who has not regained his previous stellar form since returning from the Cup of African Nations) and handing the captain’s armband to Mike Petke, a workmanlike player that can relate to the British style of play.
With links firmly established between the two Kroenke influenced sides and the partnership growing thanks to Smith’s success, what does the future hold for Arsenal in America? Could the Gunners be the second current Premier League side (following Stoke City which owns the USL-1 side Austin Aztex and has put an English board member in charge of the club which begins play next year) to have outright control over an American based side? Would this be a good thing as Arsenal swins upstream to build its brand in the United States against big money clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea, who have as of yet not invested in the American game the way Arsenal has?