Sounders camp was abuzz Thursday over the hiring of former coach Sigi Schmid to run the Los Angeles Galaxy, a team Seattle will face Saturday in California.
Sounders veteran Brad Evans said former coach Sigi Schmid wasn’t optimistic about ever coaching in Major League Soccer again when they last spoke a few months ago.
But on Thursday, the Los Angeles Galaxy turned that prediction on its head by naming Schmid, 64, their new head coach for his second go-around with that club. The move came after the Galaxy fired first-year coach Curt Onalfo and turned to Schmid — the all-time winningest MLS coach win 254 victories — for this Saturday night’s upcoming game against his former Sounders squad.
Onalfo had taken over the squad after the departure of longtime coach Bruce Arena to head up the U.S. Men’s National Team. With the Galaxy struggling through a rebuiding phase — and looking little like the dynastic MLS franchise it is known to be — team management looked to longtime Los Angeles area resident Schmid to turn things around.
“The last time we spoke was for a Sirius XM interview previewing the last World Cup qualifiers,” Evans said after a Sounders workout Thursday in Tukwila. “And he told me he didn’t think that he was going to get a job. That it wasn’t in the cards. So, credit to him for sticking it out. I guess the Galaxy figured they had to go a different way and so he’s the closest local, obvious choice to fill in.”
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The Galaxy sit 6-10-4 and in ninth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Sounders, who fired Schmid a year ago this week ahead of reversing their last-place standing and winning the MLS Cup, have won three straight to climb above .500 and within four points of first place.
Schmid told reporters in Los Angeles on Thursday, following his first practice with the Galaxy, that he’s come “full circle” by rejoining the squad he broke into coaching with from 1999-2004 — winning the 2002 MLS Cup. He later coached the Columbus Crew from 2006-2008 — where he won a second MLS Cup in 2008 — and then the Sounders starting with their expansion season in 2009.
“I’m grayer for sure,” Schmid said of what’s happened since that first Galaxy stint. “I think over the years what happens is you let less things upset you. You’re more cerebral with things, but my passion and desire to win are still there. I can still get emotional as well because it’s important to me and it’s important that the players know that it’s important to me. That part has never really changed. I’ll let my assistant coaches do a lot of the work. It’s important to me.”
Saturday’s game at the StubHub Center was already shaping up as another interesting installment in a heated rivalry, with Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris rejoining the Sounders fresh off their CONCACAF Gold Cup victory over Jamaica with the U.S. national side. Morris scored the winning goal in the 88th minute of the final, and Dempsey played a key role in both goals by the U.S. in the semifinal against Costa Rica last weekend.
Still, Evans knows the Schmid addition just took the rivalry up a decisive notch. The Sounders beat the Galaxy on the road 3-0 in April, but Evans doesn’t foresee the same type of game.
“It will be a difficult team to play against,” Evans said. “Any time you bring in a new coach, no matter who it is, your team is up for the task. Everybody is out there proving that they belong on the field and that they deserve to be there as well. So I’m obviously looking forward to the weekend.”
Evans has played both for and against Schmid, who from 2009 through to last July was the only MLS coach the Sounders had known. He said his teammates will have no trouble getting up for the game.
“It will be nice to beat him,” Evans said, adding, “It’s a game we want to win. It’s a game that I want to win. There are still guys on this team that are still proving they belong — me one of them. So for me it’s not just another game but it’s one in which I need to perform well.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer sent his former boss a congratulatory text message Thursday.
“We all felt that Sig was going to get a shot somewhere,” he said. “And it’s the Galaxy, where he kind of started his MLS career. So good for him.”
Schmetzer was an assistant under Schmid starting with that maiden Sounders 2009 season. He then led the team to the MLS Cup after Schmid was let go last summer.
“He knows about my players, and I know about his style,” Schmetzer said. “So it will be interesting.”
Schmetzer doubts either will change his approach all that much come Saturday. But he agrees it will be “challenging” when the teams take the pitch.
“It just fans some of the flames,” Schmetzer said of the rivalry. “It’s another good storyline.”