The Seattle Sounders are headed home early once again, following Sunday night's wild penalty-kick shootout loss to FC Dallas in Leg 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The disappointing conclusion to a season that started with MLS Cup aspirations now leaves Seattle at an offseason crossroads, with plenty of decisions about the future of the club looming in the coming weeks.
One big decision for Seattle’s ownership and front office figures to be on the future of head coach Sigi Schmid. An MLS stalwart, Schmid has won two MLS Cups, five US Open Cups, two Supporters’ Shields and a CONCACAF Champions Cup en route to becoming one of the more respected coaching figures in US soccer.
But Schmid has yet to deliver an MLS Cup to Seattle, something he and the team perennially preach is the club’s No. 1 priority. Sunday’s loss marked the seventh straight year since their 2009 expansion season that the Sounders have fallen short of that goal, prompting increasing unrest among Seattle’s demanding fanbase with each passing year.
“The Cup is what we haven’t given [the fans] yet,” Schmid told reporters after the loss to Dallas. “We’ve given them four Open Cups, we’ve given them a Supporters’ Shield. Our trophy case has a lot more in it than Dallas, as an example.”
Schmid, who also missed time earlier this season with a personal health-related issue, also told reporters that he feels physically able to coach and wants to be with the Sounders next season.
But he also acknowledged that the decision isn’t necessarily up to him.
“Obviously, that’s not my decision,” Schmid said. “That’s ownership’s decision, and they’ll decide that. But I feel fine, and I still feel capable of coaching.”
Schmid’s future is far from the only point of evaluation for the Sounders this offseason.
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The team could conceivably keep their current veteran core together for another run. Seattle did, after all, come within inches of making another Western Conference Championship appearance despite missing linchpins Ozzie Alonso and Brad Evans for most of the playoffs and struggling mightily to stay healthy throughout the regular season.
But the prospect of infusing the roster with youth at the expense of some veteran faces could also be considered, especially when taking into account the success other MLS teams have had with fostering young talent.
“That’s something I’ve got to think about, and we’ll make decisions on that,” Schmid said. “I thought the team did well considering all the obstacles and all the difficulties we had this season, with all the injuries and people being out.
“There’s nothing I want to do more, and nothing the guys in the room want to do more, than bring an MLS Cup back to Seattle. Hopefully one day that’ll happen.”