Photo via Jane Gershovich/MLS
The official puts the whistle in his mouth for the final time as he blows for full time. The rave green bench swarms the field, Nico Lodeiro fires the ball into the air, and pandemonium ensues in the crowd and in the homes of many local Seattleites. Yet on the sideline, in his black trench coat, leaning against his bench, he looks out. He observes, he takes it all in and takes a leisurely stroll onto the cold, damp artificial turf. Taking in the noise of the 69,274 fans that still remain, hearing the chant of “Seattle…..Sounders….” and feeling the rumble under his feet, he finds his assistant coach Brian Babcock and simply utters, “Wow.” What else can a man like Brian Schmetzer say? The Seattle-born coach has continually found success in his methods with the Seattle Sounders. But it isn’t the fact that he is a student of the game. It isn’t that he is a former player for the club in the early 1970s. It’s a love for this city, this club and the fanbase that allows continued success for Schmetzer.
Sounders manager, Brian Schmetzer, has found nothing but success in Seattle. Being a local from the area, he has certainly seen his fair share of striking gold in the Pacific Northwest. From watching the 2001 Seattle Mariners win 116 games in a single Major League Baseball season to the super bowl winning Seattle Seahawks, even the three-time champion Seattle Storm can be seen as an inspiration for Schmetzer. But whether as a player or coach, gold has always been found for Schmetzer.
In his playing career, Schmetzer played for the Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League after graduating from high school. But his first taste of glory was with the San Diego Sockers in the Major Indoor Soccer League where he won three titles in the four years he played with the team. Schmetzer’s success as a coach far exceeds his short playing career.
Schmetzer was a young coach who took over for the revamped Seattle Sounders in 2001. This was before Major League Soccer and before soccer in the United States was really relevant. He agreed to take a job in the A-League where he finished the season with a 23-4-1 record and took the all the way to the championship game against the Montreal Impact in 2014. The team would lose that game but come back the following year to beat the Richmond Kickers, who were undefeated, to take their first league title.
From the A-League to MLS, Schmetzer was named head coach after veteran coach and only MLS coach of the Seattle Sounders, Sigi Schmid, was released. Schmetzer was named interim head coach after the club was having one of the worse starts in club history. The team went on that same season to then set a record for most points in the second half of the season and to end up in 4th place in the west. This team went through trials by taking down Kansas City in a thriller in Seattle. Then dispatched FC Dallas followed by Colorado, Seattle finally found their way into MLS Cup 2016 to face arguably one of the best teams in MLS history, Toronto FC. Schmetzer’s team faced adversity and 0 shots on goal throughout the entire game but somehow got his team into penalty kicks and won.
Seattle, who has just won the championship a couple of weeks ago, has now been in the final three out of the last four years. Schmid had never gotten them past the conference final. So what makes Schmetzer different and how does he find success?
The one thing I notice is his ability to continue to get the best and how to develop each player he encounters. If you look at the players Brian Schmetzer has had the opportunity to work with, it certainly is not the greatest of choices most coaches would have. Jordy Delem, Cristian Roldan, Handwalla Bwana, Nouhou Tolo and of course, Jordan Morris. Many of these players were/are younger than 25 years old when Schmetzer first had to work with these players. Developing young players is one of the hardest struggles a coach would have to deal with, especially someone that had the pressure that Jordan Morris had on him. But developing these players and connecting with them is exactly what Schmetzer has found his gold mine in.
Jordan Morris, coming off an ACL injury last season, just was named team MVP and MLS Comeback player of the year. He is also having a career year with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Cristian Roldan, who came from the University of Washington, was playing second fiddle to Aaron Kovar under Schmid’s system. Roldan has the second-longest tenure on the team and has been a staple midfielder filling the void left by veteran Osvaldo Alonso. Delem is a Martinique international starter who has also helped fill gaps in the midfield and Nouhou started as a sloppy and carefree left back is now a tough and pacey left back with the ability to burn you with footwork at will.
Schmetzer continues to find success and makes winning look easy at this point. In his 3 ½ seasons with the Sounders, he has 59 wins, 36 losses, and 29 draws. In his time as an assistant and head coach he has won the A-League championship, the USL championship, four U.S. Open cups, one Supporters Shield and now two MLS Cups. The league will continue to count out Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders year in and year out because he does not have the talent of LAFC or the coaching ability of Toronto. But what the Northwest man will tell you time and time again. He does not need that kind of praise. Everything he does is for the city, for the club, and for the fans. His blood runs Rave Green, his heart pounds with the claps at the beginning of every match. His passion for this city knows no bounds, his intellect for the game continues to grow and his love for this team will live and die in Schmetzer. While he may not have a lot of personalities, he will not care. He’s got plenty of silverware to prove his results, and Brian Schmetzer is only getting started.