The veteran coach was back for his second stint in Los Angeles, a year after he was fired in Seattle.
CARSON, Calif. — Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei admitted after this emotional night was done that he was thrilled to see the opposing team’s coach back on the sidelines.
But any joy he had for former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid making his Major League Soccer return in a second stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy was reserved for postgame congratulatory words. While Saturday night’s 0-0 draw was still ongoing, Frei’s focus needed to be razor sharp just to allow his Sounders to escape with a valued road point.
Frei’s lunging save off a header in the box by Gyasi Zardes in the 65th minute kept the fired-up Galaxy from getting on the board. And on a night when emotions, fouls, taunts, and yellow and red cards were in high volume, Frei and his teammates kept their composure long enough to avoid disaster.
“It was all business,’’ Frei said. “But by the same token, when the game over, I was really happy for Sigi, to see him on the sideline again, also here where he has his family.
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“He’s a great coach. I’ve said this before, but he means a tremendous amount to me because of the way he resurrected my career. So, it’s good to see him get another shot. And I told him he can turn things around with L.A. As much as I don’t want that to happen because we know how dangerous they are if they get into the playoffs, I (wish) him all the best.’’
It was clear early on in front 25,667 fans at the StubHub Center that this was going to be a different game than the 3-0 blowout the Sounders inflicted on the home team here back in April. The Galaxy had allowed 34 goals in 20 games — fourth worst in the league — heading into the contest, but held the Sounders to few serious chances the entire first half.
Schmid coached the Sounders from their MLS inception in 2009 through his firing last July and knows the team’s individual players about as well as any opponent can. The Galaxy seemed to frustrate the Sounders with their defensive style, while infuriating them with their physical play.
Galaxy captain Jelle Van Damme took a yellow card for tripping Clint Dempsey late in the first half of the Sounders’ veteran’s return from U.S. Men’s National Team play. Moments earlier, a hard tackle by Jermaine Jones on Nicolas Lodeiro nearly triggered a melee as Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson and Roman Torres converged to protest the foul.
Lodeiro would be fouled again late in the match by Van Damme, leading to the defender’s ejection from the match.
While both sides opened up the attack in the second half and had chances, the scoreless draw seemed fitting on a night the previously slumping Galaxy players had some extra fight in their game.
Schmid was pleased with the effort. And to be back in the game after a year’s absence.
“It was great to be back on that sideline,’’ Schmid said. “I don’t know what it is, but I love this game. Nobody’s ever going to take that away from me. It’s just a passion and hopefully I can convey that passion on to my teams and my players.’’
Schmid said it was “special and unique’’ to face an opponent he’d helped put together.
“I still have a lot of good relationships with those guys,’’ Schmid said. “Cristian Roldan was a young player I believed in and he’s really shown his development. … There’s a lot of connections that go back. They’re special guys and they’re a good team.
“They probably are a little disappointed in their record at this stage of the season, but they are a good team. And that’s something I want our team to understand — we didn’t tie a lesser team in our league. We tied, in my mind, one of the best teams in our league.’’
Roldan said it was clear Schmid’s hiring “motivated’’ the Galaxy and that it was tough not to get caught up in the added emotions of the game.
“We’ve all had good relationships with Sigi and he’s given us so much and the city so much,’’ he said.
Roldan admitted it “wasn’t our sharpest game’’ and that the Sounders could have done more with their chances. Will Bruin got in alone momentarily on Galaxy keeper Brian Rowe in the opening minute of the second half but his shot went wide.
Moments later, Roldan unleashed a blistering drive from just outside the box but it, too, was off-target.
“We just couldn’t quite find that breakthrough,’’ said Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, the former Schmid assistant who took over last July and led the team to a championship. “But overall the guys put in a gutty performance. We knew that team was going to come out with some energy — the new coach bump — it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t take full advantage.’’