Khano Smith targets MLS coaching job
Khano Smith is one step closer to realising his dream of becoming a coach in Major League Soccer after obtaining a US Soccer professional coaching license.
The former New England Revolution forward successfully completed the year-long course after being one of only ten coaches selected following a rigorous interview process.
“They only allow ten people a year so it’s obviously a real stringent process,” Smith told The Royal Gazette.
“I had to go through an interview process, do an assignment and analysis of a US national men’s game and then they score you. You get scored based off certain criteria and then they select ten people to be on the course, so I was really fortunate to be one of the ten.”
One of the key components of the course which intrigued Smith most was the focus on being a potential leader.
“Leadership study was actually really enjoyable for me,” he added. “You had to select a top coach to follow and study their leadership, their game model and style of play and really do a deep dive into that person.”
Smith selected Colorado Rapids’ Jamaican-born head coach Robin Fraser, who made 27 appearances for the United States national team between 1998 and 2001.
“Robin Fraser is born in Jamaica so he was someone I felt I could really identify with and get access to, which was really important to me,” Smith said.
“I got to spend a lot of time with him this year. I went to visit his club when they played in Nashville and spent a few days with him. He is somebody that is going to be a mentor for me now.”
Smith is presently an assistant coach at United Soccer League Championship side Birmingham Legion and has long dreamt of coaching in the MLS.
“It’s always been a dream and an ambition of mine to coach in MLS,” he said.
“I am working in the second tier now and don’t ever want to limit myself, so the next logical step would be to hopefully work at a MLS club someday. Destination is not necessarily a huge importance because the teams are all in great cities so to be able to live in any of them would be fun.
“I just want an opportunity to lead my own team or work in the MLS at the next level as an assistant and I think that’s most important.”
The former Dandy Town and national team player has been involved in coaching for the past seven years. He holds Uefa ‘A’ and ‘B’ coaching badges and has been an assistant coach at professional women’s team Orlando Pride and Southern New Hampshire University.
“Coaching is obviously a different mindset,” Smith added. “As a coach you need to see things differently than as a player. Players for the most part just think of themselves and where they are at in the whole ecosystem with being part of a team.
“As a coach you need to be able to see everything and that’s from team performance, sports science, leadership, the culture of the team, tactics and the opposition. It’s just totally different and players are not thinking of that. I need to be above the globe and looking at everything and not just one side of it.”
Smith made 100 appearances for New England between 2003 and 2012 and reckons the experience he gained as a player in the MLS will bode him well should he get the opportunity to coach at that level.
“I don’t think it’s a necessity but it certainly helps because you know what the players are going through,” he said. “You have been there and you know what they are living and the highs and lows of being a player you can understand it.”
Birmingham Legion finished fourth in the USL Championship Eastern Conference last season.
Smith said the league is of a “good standard” and hopes to see more Bermudians showcasing their skills in North America.
“Players that normally would be playing in MLS are not making those rosters and are falling into USL clubs, so it’s a really good standard,” he added.
“It’s a really good standard and I think more players from Bermuda need to see North America, the US and Canada as a destination for their career aspirations as professionals.
“I think everybody looks at the glitz and glamour of England and it’s great. But England is a really, really top level playing in the Premier League and playing at the level that Nahki [Wells] is playing in the Championship.
“There are not too many Nahki Wells but I think there’s more Zeiko Lewis’s and Khano Smith’s of the world and guys that can impact the game in North America. I think people really need to start looking at it as a destination to go to play.
“The World Cup is here in four years so the investment in this game has been massive over the last decade or so. It’s going to continue to grow over the next four years so I am just really happy where I am at in being able to hopefully be part of that when the World Cup comes here in four years and working at club level.
“The game in this part of the world is growing so fast. It’s still young and it has so much room to grow, I think our people kind of overlook it sometimes.”