Seattle first -- and, as of mid-July, only -- MLS coach has been forced to watch the club's run to its first league championship game from afar.
Former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who parted ways with the club in late July, has watched his former team’s run to MLS Cup from afar but only in “bits and pieces.” He’ll actually be in Toronto for the final on Saturday night, doing some on-site work for Major League Soccer.
His one regret, he’d told fans at an sentimental send-off at a local bar a few days after his departure, was that he would not be the man to bring the club’s first big-league soccer championship to Seattle. Schmid’s Sounders won four U.S. Open Cups and a regular-season title, but MLS Cup eluded them despite a run of seven consecutive playoff berths.
So yeah, the 63-year-old coaching veteran has mixed emotions about the team’s late-season surge under Brian Schmetzer, his replacement and longtime top assistant. Below is a portion of a phone interview with Schmid on Tuesday, edited for length and clarity.
– Earlier this postseason, Schmetzer said he hoped you were able to take “some joy” in what this team has been able to accomplish. Have you been able to? “I mean, I’m proud of the fact that the team that’s playing is the team that the entire staff behind Brian – Chris Henderson, myself, the others involved – it’s the group that we assembled,” Schmid said. “That’s the group that is carrying through. We had identified (standout midseason signing Nicolas) Lodeiro. We had identified (Alvaro) Fernandez. We knew that (Roman) Torres was coming back. It’s satisfying to see that the belief we had once we felt that whole group would come together has been warranted.”
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– Brad Evans has said that, even coming off the bench throughout this run, he’s been able to take pride in the fact that he laid a lot of the groundwork for what’s happening now. Is it similar for you? “Winning something is a journey. We’ve been disappointed along the way, but this is sort of the culmination of the journey. I’m happy for the guys, but obviously a little bit sad, as well, because we started the journey in 2009. When you look at the franchise, we’ve done a really good job in keeping things intact throughout that period of time. I’m really happy for all of those people who were around from that point forward.”
– When we talked in Manhattan Beach a month or so after the parting of ways, you described working through a process in trying to get over it. Where are you at in that process, in moving forward and with everything else? “I have the same belief in life that I had in coaching: You can’t change what has happened. You look forward and you move ahead. Take on the next challenge when they get presented, look to live for the next day. You can look back and spend your days always reflecting back on what might have been, but the only thing to do is look forward.”
– Do you have any better on what that next challenge might look like? “No idea,” Schmid said, though he is still committed to coaching rather than looking for a front-office role. “I definitely want to be coaching. I don’t think the first half of the season is a reflection of the coaching that I’ve been able to do throughout my career. I want to make sure it ends on a better note than that.”
– Have you been rooting on the Sounders? Will you be rooting for them on Saturday night? “My son, Kurt, is still a Sounders employee (as an assistant coach), so I know he gets a bonus if they win. I know I’ll be rooting for that. I still have a lot of friends within the club and on the staff, as well as a lot of players that I still feel connected to. I definitely would like to see them finish it up and reap the final reward.”