SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Future of Sounders’ head coach position uncertain after Sigi Schmid’s departure
Jul 26, 2016, 5:38 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2016, 12:26 pm
It was just a day ago that I wrote an extensive pros and cons list regarding whether or not the Sounders should remove Sigi Schmid from the head coach position. I couldn’t decide which was the right course of action; those pros and cons were pretty evenly matched. But on Tuesday morning, it was decided that it was indeed time for Schmid and the club to part ways after nearly eight seasons together.
Schmid had been the Sounders’ head coach since their expansion year in 2009, and he racked up a number of accomplishments during his tenure: four U.S. Open Cup titles, a Supporters’ Shield, two Cascadia Cups and seven straight playoff appearances. But the 2016 season so far has been an unequivocal disaster for Schmid and his squad. The Sounders have a 6-12-2 record, and last weekend’s embarrassing 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City seems to have been the nail in the coffin for Schmid’s tenure.
Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer told assembled media after Tuesday’s practice session that “it was a reasonable time to part ways” with Schmid.
“That takes nothing away from what he’s done for this club. He’s a good friend, I respect him immensely and he’s helped us transform the sport in this country,” Hanauer said.
Hanauer stressed that too often in soccer, coaches are given too much credit for wins while taking too much blame for losses. He said that it was truly a mutual departure, and that he and Schmid agreed together that the time was right.
General manager Garth Lagerwey, who has only worked with Schmid for the past 18 months, repeated the notion that it was a difficult decision, but one made together by those at the top of the organization.
“(Schmid) will be hard to match. Those are big shoes to fill and we’re gonna have to do so carefully and thoughtfully,” Lagerwey said, adding that he and Schmid have a solid relationship, one that has always been “cordial” and filled with mutual respect.
The future of the Sounders’ head coach position is uncertain. Hanauer said that the search has already begun, but that the club would likely be leaving the team in the hands of interim manager Brian Schmetzer for the rest of the season. Schmetzer has not only been an assistant to Schmid since the beginning of his tenure, but he was head coach of the club from 2002-2008 when it was further down the pyramid of American Soccer in the United Soccer League. A native of Seattle, Schmetzer even played for the Sounders in a couple stints in the 80s and 90s.
Hanauer, who has known Schmetzer for over 15 years, is very confident in the interim coach.
“I’ve known and worked with Brian for 15-plus years,” he said. “I guess the thing I’d say about Brian is that no one loves this club more. I know that every decision he makes will be about the club and the club’s success. There’s no individualism about his methods, it’s all about the team and the club.”
Schmetzer echoed that notion.
“I’m a steward of the club. My own personal feelings are that I’m going to do everything humanly possible to win games, to push us into playoffs and whatever happens at the end of the day, I’m very pragmatic,” he said.
Schmetzer stressed that while he has his own methods and ideas about the game and the club, the team is coached as a collective. Even as an assistant to Schmid, he was part of that decision-making collective. This means that he values the input of the rest of the staff and will probably continue to work similarly to Schmid in a number of areas.
It’s not announced yet, but the Sounders are likely to make a couple of new signings over the next couple of days, one of which is almost assuredly Uruguay National Team player Nicolas Lodeiro, who was spotted at Sea-Tac Airport on Tuesday. We’ll have more on the signings when it’s made official, but for now, Schmetzer noted that getting those players into the groove and rhythm of the club is of the utmost importance.
“We’re going to have to try to incorporate two new players into the club; that’s an important task, seeing how the Lodeiro and (Clint) Dempsey combination works,” Schmetzer said.
He added that patience will be important, and that such chemistry doesn’t always happen quickly. But he and the club are preparing, meeting, talking and doing everything possible to get the team back on track for 2016.
While I didn’t get a great sense of confidence from Hanauer, Lagerwey or Schmetzer regarding the Sounders’ chances at a late playoff run, they all seemed to at least see it as a reasonable notion.
“You never know,” Hanauer said. “It’s possible that we’ll go on a run starting this weekend, win a pile of games and it might be because we made a change or it might be all the preparation that went into this weekend.”
It’s clear that the season so far for the Sounders was unacceptable to the organization, and the front office deemed it the best decision to part ways with Schmid. The feeling I got from the club was that Schmetzer will be charged with righting the ship, even if it means not making the playoffs. Restoring confidence and faith in the team will be the first goal, and blending in new players with the youth and the old guard will be the second. But it won’t be easy, for Schmetzer or the players, as they face a tough test against an in-form Galaxy team this weekend.
Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.