Freddy Juarez didn’t waste a minute in getting acclimated to his new role as Sounders assistant coach.
Before his luggage was unpacked, he was at Starfire Sports in Tukwila viewing the club’s academy session between the U-17 and U-19 squads Thursday. Then he headed to Tacoma that evening to watch the USL Championship side Defiance defeat Las Vegas to continue a nine-match unbeaten streak at Cheney Stadium.
Friday, Juarez was introduced to the First Team and local media members.
“It’s nice to be in a new place, new energy,” Juarez said.
In August, he stepped down as head coach for Real Salt Lake. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer had two openings on his technical staff after assistants Gonzalo Pineda and Djimi Traore departed for head coaching positions with Atlanta United and in Denmark, respectively.
“It’s a new challenge,” Juarez continued. “I’m not done developing as a coach. There’s a whole lot more to learn. Brian is a guy I feel is a very high quality, mature coach. From afar, you see a team that’s ran well, managed well.
“When you’re young as a coach, you feel like if you could just lead into a good session, that’s going to win you games. That’s not the case. That’s something I’ve learned the last 2½ years. It’s a lot about management and creating a culture. Here, you see a competitive culture, a winning culture. … there’s so much to learn.”
Juarez, 43, and Schmetzer, 59, crossed paths as A-League/USL players. They didn’t develop a relationship until Juarez called last winter for advice on how to replicate what the Sounders have with RSL.
Juarez was hired by RSL in 2010 as head coach of its academy, then located in Casa Grande, Ariz. Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders president of soccer and general manager, promoted Juarez to be the first head coach of Real Monarchs in 2014, but then left to take the position in Seattle.
Craig Waibel, who was hired by Lagerwey in April to be the Sounders’ senior vice president of soccer operations and sporting director, oversaw Juarez in a similar position with RSL. Juarez advanced to first-team assistant, interim head coach and ultimately the lead spot.
RSL was successful under Juarez’s brief guidance. It advanced to the playoffs in 2019 and was in postseason position with a 7-7-6 record before Juarez’s departure.
Schmetzer said the late Sigi Schmid being willing to meet with him for an hour over coffee at the beginning of Schmetzer’s coaching career is why he does the same when others contact him. Schmid was then coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“It was a good moment for me,” Schmetzer said of his former mentor. “Freddy is a humble guy, a nice guy. He’s going to fit in great. Who doesn’t like a guy who does everything for the team, helps the team, help the players, help the coaches? He’s got experience. What’s not to like?”
Schmetzer isn’t close to making his second coaching hire. Juarez is fluent in Spanish and English, which fills another immediate need for the tactical staff in quickly communicating with the multilingual roster.
“We’ll see how Freddy goes,” Schmetzer said. “Basically, I want another hardworking, humble, competent coach.”
Traore to Denmark
Traore, 41, was formally announced as head coach of the Right to Dream international academy Friday. The U-18 teams are based in Denmark, Ghana and Egypt and are part of FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark.
“I could not say no to this possibility,” Traore, who’s French, told Ekstra Bladet, a Danish newspaper. “It will give me the chance to develop my professional toolbox in a new and exciting way. I look forward to bringing my knowledge and experience from my career as a player and coach into a new role.”