TUKWILA, Wash. – For Seattle Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer, the rest of the club's 2016 MLS season represents an audition for the biggest role of his life.
Schmetzer is a Sounders lifer, with an affiliation to the team that dates as far back as 1980 when he was drafted by the NASL iteration of the club. He also coached the USL Sounders from 2002-2008 and has acted as the team’s top assistant since Seattle joined MLS in 2009.
With last week’s news that the Sounders had decided to mutually part ways with long-time head coach Sigi Schmid -- and that Schmetzer would take over on an interim basis for the rest of the season -- the interim boss now has 13 more games to make his case as the club’s long-term replacement.
“It’s my turn now,” Schmetzer said after news of Schmid’s departure broke last week. “I’m just a steward of the club. How ever long I’m here – and I’d love to be here a long time – but however long I’m here, I’m going to the best job I can for the Seattle Sounders to have success. That’s how I feel.”
Even with his lengthy list of credentials, Schmetzer’s future status isn’t guaranteed.
Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer told reporters after Schmid's departure that Schmetzer will be considered for the permanent role but added that the club will also conduct a wide-ranging search.
With the franchise at a crossroads on multiple fronts, Schmetzer hasn’t wasted time in trying to impart his own identity as Seattle try to work their way back into the MLS playoff race. He trotted out a previously unused 4-2-3-1 formation for Seattle’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy last Sunday and Sounders captain Brad Evans said on Thursday that the team has been going through new drills in training that it had not used under Schmid.
“It definitely is different,” Evans said. “I think a lot of these trainings, a number of us haven’t done certain drills before. It almost makes you think a little bit different. It expands your thought process during training, it gets guys a little bit excited and it challenges you.”
With all the noise surrounding the 6-12-3 Sounders since Schmid’s departure and the infusion of newly signed Designated Player Nicolas Lodeiro, Schmetzer said his objective for the rest of the season is simple: Find some way to put together a string of results that gets the Sounders into the playoffs and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.
“My own personal feelings are that I’m going to do everything humanly possible to win games and to push us into the playoffs,” Schmetzer said. “Whatever happens at the end of the day, I’m very pragmatic. I will turn up okay.”