Last Thursday, Seattle Sounders announced that they would bypass the hunt for a new manager and retain head coach Sigi Schmid for the 2014 season. After a two-hour sit down with the coach, owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer made firm his stance that Schmid was the right man going forward. Hanauer cited the coach’s leadership in the locker room and on the pitch.
In a conference call with reporters, majority owner Joe Roth said about the coach, “He is the leader of the players.” While he may have the support amongst those that play for him, Schmid is certainly on a thin rope with the fans. Seattle is unlike any other city in the MLS. They have astronomical attendance in comparison to other teams and unwavering regional support. The fans hold the team to high standards and every season brings a new desire for an MLS Cup. In the five years that Schmid has been at the helm, such desire has not been satisfied.
However, when looking at Sigi Schmid’s resume it’s hard to argue that there’s a better man for the job. Coming to America from Germany when he was a young child, Schmid loved the game at an early age. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he started at midfield each of his four years at the school. He returned to UCLA as a coach in 1980 and led the Bruins to a 322W 63L 33D record in his 19 seasons with the school. Schmid left UCLA and went to LA Galaxy during the 1999 MLS season. There, he accumulated a record of 79W 53L 32D and led the Galaxy to an MLS Cup. In 2006, Schmid became the coach of Columbus Crew, where he won the Cup and continued to lead the team until the end of the 2008 season.
He took over the Seattle Sounders in 2009, when they were coming into the league as an expansion team, and led them in to the playoffs. It was only the second time in MLS history that a first-year team was playing in the postseason. A third place finish in the Western Conference was backed by an appearance in the semi-finals and a US Open Cup Trophy.
In his second season with the club, the Sounders surged into the playoffs after winning 10 of their final 15 matches, but were eliminated in the semi-finals in front of a record-setting crowd. The next year, Schmid led the Sounders to their third straight conference semi-finals in a season where the club averaged an attendance of 38,496 per home match. In 2012, the team was the victim of another early playoff exit but not before they finished second-best in defense and fifth-best in offense.
This season, the Sounders finished fourth in the Western Conference and were eliminated by the Portland Timbers 5-3 on aggregate in the playoffs. The ownership group proved to the fans that their commitment to winning was serious, bringing in Clint Dempsey and making him the highest paid player in Major League Soccer history.While Schmid has yet to lead this team to the MLS Cup, he has proven that he can put a quality product onto the pitch year in and year out. Club owner Roth stated:
“It’s two things. It’s results and character. We expect to get the results, we expect the team to have the character that we want it to, and if the team has the character we want it to, we’ll get the results.”
After hearing that statement from the owner, there is no contest that Schmid is the right man to lead the club. He has command of the locker room and the players go out and play hard for him. There is no lack of character on a team that features US national team players Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and Brad Evans. With a few additional roster tweaks, the ownership group believes that Coach Schmid will lead the Sounders to the game’s biggest stage and ultimately to the MLS Cup that the great fans deserve.