On July 26th the Sounders had only 20 points from 20 games, had only scored 20 goals and sat 2nd from bottom in the Western Conference. Coach Sigi Schmid’s 8 year run also came to an end that day, following the abysmal 0-3 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City. Brian Schmetzer, Schmid’s assistant, was selected as interim coach for the season, and now they face Kansas this Thursday in the MLS Cup Knockout round.
The turnaround is nothing short of remarkable, taking 28 points from the remaining 14 games to take 4th place, including the standout 4-2 win at LA Galaxy. This familiar face yet fresh approach has made the team believe again, and regardless of how they perform from here on out, Schmetzer has done enough to earn his place as head coach of the Sounders.
Sure, it’s the players that get the results, and the acquisition of Nicolas Lodeiro from Boca Juniors is certainly another big part of that success. But it’s the management by Schmetzer that has made such an acquisition work, changing the Sounders system to fit around such an influential and much-needed No.10. Shifting from a somewhat experimental yet stagnant 4-3-3 to the much-loved modern 4-2-3-1, with Lodeiro just behind rookie-revelation Jordan Morris, has worked wonders for everyone. The shell-shock of Clint Dempsey having to miss the rest of the year has been coped with incredibly positively, with Lodeiro being such a breath of fresh air for not only the Sounders but for Major League Soccer: 13 games, 4 goals (including this beauty) and 8 assists have helped the Sounders end the regular season as one of the top-form teams.
Lets not forget that Schmetzer is no stranger to the Sounders, having been assistant to Sigi Schmid since their expansion to MLS in 2009 and previously coached the NASL Sounders from 2002 until that point, winning championships along the way. Given the success Schmid brought to the Sounders in his tenure (all but the MLS Cup), and of course the current league position at the time, Schmetzer was under pressure from day 1 to salvage something from this season, although it has never showed.
In a recent interview with Alexi Lalas, Sigi Schmid was of course sad at how his tenure came to an end, and further explained that it could have been that his message wasn’t resonating with the squad as it once was. Whatever the message is now, it is working and Sigi also believes, as i do, that it should be given further time to resonate with Schmetzer in charge.