With longtime coach Sigi Schmid having been deposed by "mutual consent" on Tuesday morning, his top assistant has been given the title of interim head coach for the remainder of this season.
It’s not for nothing that Brian Schmetzer harkened back on Tuesday morning to a line of predecessors dating back to the original North American Soccer League.
“John Best, Jimmy Gabriel, Alan Hinton, Neil Megson, Bernie James, myself, Sigi,” Schmetzer ran down the list.
More than any other current member of the organization, Schmetzer is a bridge between eras.
The Seattle native played for the NASL Sounders and coached the USL version to a minor-league title. He was the top assistant coach under Sigi Schmid from the club’s inaugural MLS season, and with Schmid having been deposed by “mutual consent” on Tuesday morning, Schmetzer has been given the title of interim head coach for the remainder of this season.
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“If you look at the line of coaches that we’ve had … we’re all just stewards of the club,” Schmetzer said. “The club is always going to be here. … The club is basically the players and the fans – and include myself in that group – and their relationship. That is the club.
“It’s an opportunity for me. And so it’s bittersweet: You lose a guy that you have a lot of respect for, but at the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to try to impart some pride back into the club and try to win some games.”
Schmetzer is under no illusions. While Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said that Schmetzer will almost certainly be in charge for the remainder of this season, Hanauer also said that a search for a new, full-time coach will begin immediately. For a club that speaks often of its global ambitions — and despite Schmetzer’s locker-room popularity as a players’ coach — there will be pressure to make a splash with a big-name, established replacement.
Schmetzer will have 14 league games with which to make a playoff push. Seattle currently sits three places and 10 points behind Vancouver, which currently occupies the sixth-and-final qualifying spot.
“I am a steward of the club,” Schmetzer said of the interim tag. “My own personal feelings are that I’m going to do everything humanly possible to win games, to push us into the playoffs. Whatever happens at the end of the day, I’m very pragmatic and I will turn up OK.”
In describing his preferred style, Schmetzer certainly did not seek to lower expectations: “We’re going to have an attacking, scoring, tough-nosed defensive team that wins games.”
Though Schmetzer conceded that “some guys were emotional” following the farewell address Schmid gave to the team on Tuesday morning, it was not exactly atypical to watch Schmetzer confidently direct practice drills. Schmid often gave his top deputy autonomy on the practice field — especially while the former recovered from a broken leg sustained earlier this year — and Schmetzer has a 3-1-0 MLS when filling in on match-day over the years.
“The exercise I went through over the course of the years I was with Sigi was that I’d put myself in his shoes in certain situations,” Schmetzer said. “That was part of learning. … We’re a collective. Obviously, I have different ideas, but let’s make sure that we know that the staff was a collective.”