Seattle Sounders FC Extend Sigi Schmid


We take the success of the Seattle Sounders for granted. Maybe this doesn’t seem obvious at first, but take a moment to remember the trajectory of this franchise. Most expansion teams flounder for years before becoming anything worth a hoot. Sounders FC was the rare expansion team to have immediate success, and since their inception they’ve never been bad. Never missed the playoffs, even. So yeah, we kind of take it for granted that the Sounders will be good every year.

No sports team can ever keep it’s roster together year after year, and that’s been true with the Sounders, too. They’ve gone from Freddy Montero as the face of the franchise to the current Obafemi Martins/Clint Dempsey era without missing a beat. The lowest they’ve ever finished was fourth place. This team has been a model of consistency, all stewarded under the guidance of head coach Sigi Schmid.

Schmid’s been around for every season of Sounders FC, and is one of the most respected coaches in the league. A soccer lifer, Schmid was a star at UCLA before going on to coach the Bruins to sixteen consecutive playoff appearances. He became a natonal champion thrice over at the collegiate level before making the jump to MLS, coaching the Los Angeles Galaxy and Columbus Crew before taking the Sounders job prior to the 2009 campaign.

As far as pedigree is considered, Schmid is up there with the best. As far as on-field success is concerned, Schmid has very little left to prove. He’s been there, done that, and he’s sticking around for a while. The team recently announced a new long-term contract extension for their head coach, one that will keep him in Seattle for years to come.

The Sounders’ motivation for doing this is obvious: stability. There was no reason to make a change, not after the team’s most successful season to date. Schmid has only ever been successful with Seattle. Why would they make a change?

Detractors will tell you this is the wrong move, that the team should be looking to make a change at the leadership level following the team’s Western Conference Finals loss to Los Angeles. Schmid can’t get the Sounders into the MLS Cup, is the biggest argument against him. The team’s top goal year in and year out is to win the Cup, and Schmid’s always had talent on his side. Yet his team hasn’t so much as managed a Cup appearance, let alone a win.

This is an argument full of holes. Most notably, how can one attribute the success of an entire team to one man who doesn’t even play in the games? From where I stand, it sure seems like the reason the Sounders aren’t in the Cup is more about Juninho than it is about Sigi Schmid, or anyone else. One guy scores a season-ending goal and it’s the coach’s fault? Doesn’t make any sense.

Of course, that’s not all they’ll tell you. Frustrated supporters will point to Schmid’s old school ways, which represent an apparent inflexibility to help position his team to be as successful as they could be, given their talent. Schmid’s failures in the playoffs are said to be the result of some kind of refusal to get with it and enter the 21st century. Coaches should be more willing and able to adapt.

Never mind that Seattle just finished the regular season as the best team in MLS. Never mind that the playoffs are a crapshoot, in soccer as in all sports. The postseason is merely a series of moments under a spotlight, viewed through a microscope. Take a step back and they’re just games. Like the regular season. Which the Sounders just dominated.

No, Schmid’s not an inflexible old fart instructing his squad to just play kickaround when the pressure is on. He’s demonstratedly a great coach, and no two-game series that was decided by the city in which one silly goal was scored should be seen as evidence to the contrary. Schmid absolutely deserves credit for overseeing one of the most successful teams in American pro soccer history. And, of course, for all he did before that to get this job in the first place.

Sigi Schmid has a new contract. It is well-deserved. He’s something of a public figure in Seattle, and will long be remembered as an icon of this era and it’s successes long after he retires. The Sounders absolutely did good to re-up him, and will reap the benefits for a long time. And hey, who knows? Maybe Sigi will guide them to a Cup sometime in the near future. Then we’ll all be able to agree on his value to this team and city.