TUKWILA, Wash.—For the first time since they became an MLS franchise in 2009, the Seattle Sounders will have a new head coach.
Coming off a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sporting Kansas City on Sunday that left them with a 6-12-2 record and mired in ninth place in the Western Conference, the Sounders announced they had parted ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid on Tuesday. Top assistant Brian Schmetzer will take over on an interim basis for the rest of the season.
Following the announcement, Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer, general manager Garth Lagerwey and Schmetzer all spoke with reporters after Seattle’s Tuesday training session at Starfire Soccer Complex.
“We agreed that it was a reasonable time to party ways,” Hanauer said. “That takes absolutely nothing away from what [Schmid] done for this club. He’s a good friend and I respect him immensely. He’s helped us transform the sport in this country, long before I was involved.
“He’s won a bunch of trophies, won a lot of games for us, had a lot of success. But the results just weren’t there this year.”
For all of Seattle’s struggles this season, Schmid leaves his post as one of the most accomplished coaches in league history. The Sounders won four U.S. Open Cups and the 2014 Supporters’ Shield under his guidance and made the playoffs in each of his seven seasons at the helm.
But for all the regular-season and Open Cup success, perennial postseason appearances never culminated in an MLS Cup, the most commonly-cited criticism put forth by Schmid’s detractors.
Following the departure of star forward Obafemi Martins to the Chinese Super League just before the start of the season, the Sounders have struggled virtually from the get-go in 2016, netting just 20 goals in 20 games. Sunday’s performance against SKC was particularly listless, as Seattle didn’t register a shot until the 88th minute.
“This team doesn’t play like any team I’ve ever built,” Lagerwey said. “I’m looking forward to a new beginning where we have some ability to work on [building an identity]. This team can succeed. It has good players, it has talent. We’re going to continue to look at the long-term and how we want to play and have that shape our decisions going forward.”
The Sounders have a seasoned replacement in the wings in Schmetzer, who coached the USL iteration of the club from 2002-08 and has served as one of Schmids' top assistants since Seattle’s move to MLS.
The veteran assistant called the situation “bittersweet” on Tuesday, noting the contrast in emotions that comes with seeing Schmid go, but also getting an opportunity to make his own mark on the club.
“It’s tough,” Schmetzer said. “I’ll probably think more about it tonight when today’s over. Sigi’s been a good guy. He’s only been fair to me.”
“You lose a guy that you have a lot of respect for. But at the end of the day, it is an opportunity for me to try and impart some pride back in the club and make sure we try and win games.”